Sonoma County’s anti-DUI campaign will continue after the state awarded a $300,000 grant for the Avoid the 13 task force.
The task force, which includes all police agencies in the county and is coordinated by Petaluma police, had a three-year grant of $659,000 that ended Sept. 30. The money pays for various anti-DUI operations, such as checkpoints and saturation patrols, and covers the overtime of officers participating in the operations.
Petaluma Sgt. Ken Savano, who is in his fourth year of overseeing the Avoid the 13, said the latest grant is only for one year because Congress is wrangling over a transportation safety bill and that’s made the state Office of Traffic Safety, which hands out the federal grant, unsure of future funding.
The Avoid the 13 targets various holidays each year, but its focus is on four, high DUI risk periods: Memorial Day weekend, July 4th weekend, the two weeks leading up to Labor Day and the last two weeks of the year covering Christmas and New Year’s.
In the last three years during those four high-risk times, Savano said the Avoid the 13 had a total of:
–1,177 DUI arrests countywide by all police agencies. The number of convictions was unknown.
–27,800 drivers went through the checkpoints. Of those, 635 underwent field sobriety tests and 37 were arrested on suspicion of DUI.
–248 DUI saturation patrols were held, with 1,500 drivers being stopped as possible DUIs and 120 being arrested.
–7 courthouse stings were held, in which drivers appearing in court on charges of driving without a license or on a suspended license are watched as they leave court to see if they drive away illegally. Fifty-one did and were arrested.
–Officers tried to serve 514 DUI-related warrants, resulting in 146 arrests.
But the stats that Savano particularly is proud of are those for DUI-related injuries and deaths.
In 2007, he said, 59 people were injured and four were killed in the county in DUI-related crashes. In the year ending in September, 12 people were hurt and no one was killed. In fact, Savano said, there were no DUI fatalities in 2009 or 2010.
Savano, in a statement, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that checkpoints are the most effective of DUI enforcement strategies, yielding cost savings of $6 for every $1 spent. He said research shows that crashes involving alcohol drop by an average of 20 percent when well-publicized checkpoints are conducted often.
In addition to Petaluma police, the Avoid the 13 includes Cloverdale, Cotati, Healdsburg, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Windsor, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, Sonoma County Probation Department, Sonoma State University police, Santa Rosa Junior College police, state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, CHP and State Parks, as well as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“It’s everyone working together, coming together on a common problem,” Savano said.
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