Avoid the 13 to ramp up patrols
County law enforcement to crack down on DUIs through end of Labor Day
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Labor Day weekend is three weeks away, and for many Americans, that means an extra day off, backyard and beach barbecues, visiting friends and family, and the unofficial end of the summer season. 

It also means a sharp increase in drunk-driving-related fatalities. Starting Aug. 15 and continuing through Sept. 1, local police department including Rohnert Park and Cotati, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol will be aggressively targeting drunk and drugged drivers as part of a nationwide effort to end impaired driving and save lives. The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign will pair increased public awareness with high-visibility enforcement, hopefully resulting in fewer drunk drivers on Sonoma County roads.

The Avoid the 13 DUI Task Force will be aggressively looking for impaired drivers throughout the region with plans in place for one DUI/Driver’s license checkpoints, a multi-agency strike team, several local roving DUI saturation patrols, a DUI warrant/probation sweep and a DUI court sting targeting suspended drivers who were ordered by the judge not to drive.

“It’s tragic how many people lose their lives to drunk driving,” said Petaluma Police Chief Patrick Williams. “If the news reported that more than 10,000 people were killed in a preventable crime spree, the American public would be outraged.”

The Avoid the 13 – Sonoma County DUI Task Force will be joining the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign and will arrest anyone caught driving drunk. No tolerance, no excuses.

In 2012, there were 10,322 people killed in drunk-driving crashes in the United States. Over Labor Day weekend that year, 147 lost their lives to a drunk driver, more than a third (38 percent) of all traffic fatalities that weekend.

Out of all the crash fatalities that weekend, one in four were attributed to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .15 percent or higher – almost twice the legal limit in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Every 51 minutes, someone is killed in a drunk-driving crash. Over the Labor Day weekend, those fatalities increase to one every 34 minutes.  Nighttime is especially dangerous; almost half (46 percent) of the fatalities in nighttime crashes over the Labor Day weekend involved a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher, compared to 25 percent in daytime fatal crashes.

Young drivers are overrepresented in drunk-driving crashes, too. Among drivers between the ages of 18 and 34 killed in motor vehicle crashes during the 2012 Labor Day weekend, almost half (48 percent) had a .08 percent BAC or higher. For drivers under 21, anything above a BAC of .00 is illegal.

“Driving drunk is totally inexcusable,” said Petaluma Sgt. Jim Stephenson. “We’re hoping that Sonoma County drivers get the message and take some simple steps to prevent a tragedy. There’s always another way home.”

Avoid the 13 DUI task force is reminding drivers to plan ahead and designate a sober driver before attending any events where alcohol will be served.  “Planning a sober ride home, whether it’s a friend, a taxi, or public transportation, is the right choice,” Stephenson added.

This Labor Day weekend, law enforcement authorities say, don’t let the festivities turn into fatalities. Remember that, aside from the obvious risks of the drivers being killed or someone else dying, driving impaired can also lead to serious punitive consequences. A DUI arrest can mean time in jail, loss of license, and steep financial expenses; the average DUI can cost up to $10,000.

Avoid the 13 DUI Task Force funding is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who reminds everyone to call 911 to report drunk drivers. The Office of Traffic Safety is offering a free mobile app – DDVIPCA.COM – aimed at thanking the sober designated driver with perks and free offers at area bars and restaurants.

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