Curbing holiday drunk driving

This time of year, police step up checks, and other groups encourage people to stay off the roads when under the influence.

December 13, 2006|By Michael Alexander

The holidays are a time of celebration, and for some that can mean drinking more than usual. But overdoing it on eggnog doesn't make your evening so merry if driving is involved, which is why police, prosecutors and nonprofits are rolling out a variety of ways to try to cut down on holiday drunk driving — some with a carrot, and some with a stick.

The Newport Beach and Costa Mesa police departments are setting up DUI checkpoints for Friday to handle the heavy Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade traffic. In Newport, the checkpoint will be from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Jamboree Road and Santa Barbara Drive. In Costa Mesa, it will be from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Newport Boulevard at Flower Street.

But do checkpoints really work to cut down on drunk driving? Can't drunk drivers just avoid them? Not according to Costa Mesa Police Officer Tony Yannizzi.


"The people who haven't been drinking and who know about [the checkpoint] avoid it," he said. "The people who have been drinking and who know about it try to drive straight through. And the ones who don't know about it, well, we get them too."

Yannizzi added that checkpoints offer education as well as enforcement and that officers hand out pamphlets to sober drivers.

Prosecutors throughout California held news conferences Tuesday to promote safe driving, in the face of what the California District Attorney Assn. characterizes as "a serious increase in DUI arrests and injuries in California despite declining number in the rest of the country."

From 2004 to 2005, the number of people in California killed in crashes involving at least one person driving under the influence increased from 924 to 1,010, the Los Angeles Times reported in November.

There were a rash of serious crashes in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa this year involving alleged drunk drivers, including one that killed a 6-year-old boy in August.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas held a news conference with prosecutors from San Bernardino and Riverside counties Tuesday morning to also announce that the state received a federal Office of Transportation Safety grant of $3.6 million to prosecute drunk driving.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles