The CHP does not mind if students indulge in a little eggnog this holiday season, but it wants to ensure that they do not end up scrambled.
This December, the California Office of Traffic Safety, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the California Restaurant Association are sponsoring the 10th-annual California’s Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month. The month was designed in an effort to encourage California residents to join forces with law enforcement agencies, colleges, businesses and community-based organizations to aid in drunken and drugged driving prevention.
On Dec. 14, “Lights on for Life” will kick off 3D Prevention Month, with all law enforcement officers and allied agencies driving with their lights on in memory of the victims of drunken driving, according to Marilyn Sabin, assistant director for Office of Traffic Safety.
“It’s a national event and California’s been a part of it for a long time,” she said. “We’re trying to get people to not drive under the influence during the holidays. We want them to know they have options; it’s a choice people make to drive under the influence; it’s a choice we make and we don’t have to make that choice.”
Sabin said the Office of Traffic Safety works during the holidays to keep people from drinking and driving, as they do annually. However, this year’s focus has shifted specifically to underage drinking and driving among college students.
“We’re focusing on college students. We’re trying to focus on you guys because we want to stress to help your friends to keep them from driving under the influence,” she said. “What better gift can you give your friends then to tell them you’re not going to drink, that you’ll drive. I think it’s a great gift. Take extra time to plan and always wear your seatbelt.”
Several local events will occur throughout December, including a number of candlelight vigils sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Laurie Tripi of MADD Victim Services said.
“The first candlelight vigil will be held in San Diego on Dec. 9,” she said. “We have them each year for victims of the silent crime in which we honor our victims and their families killed in drunk driving crashes.”
Anne Da Vigo, CHP public information officer, said the CHP will focus on prevention in an attempt to curb the number of accidents related to intoxication.
“With the number of deaths a month, we focus on preventing drunk driving over the holiday period,” she said. “So we’re focusing on alternatives and designated drivers and encouraging people having events to have nonalcoholic beverages and to designate someone [as a sober driver] in advance.”
Many states, including California, consider a .08 blood-alcohol level the legal limit for driving. California differs from other states because of its enforcement of the Zero Tolerance policy, which requires that any person under 21 driving with a blood-alcohol content level of over .01 percent will lose one’s license for a year. Da Vigo said there has been a significant decline in the number of fatalities and accidents due to drunken driving since the policy was instated.
“Drivers under 21 must take a preliminary alcohol screening test and if their blood-alcohol level is .01 or higher, the DMV will suspend their license for one year,” she said. “This arose because people felt strongly about alcohol-related incidents, deaths and fatalities. … They felt it would be best to do this around the holiday season because this is the time of year when it’s higher.”
Sally Zink, an Automobile Association of America (AAA) public service representative, said although AAA will not be holding any special events for this month, they will provide materials and safety tips to nonprofit organizations.
“[Some of the suggestions are] nonalcoholic beverage recipes and safe driving tips specially designed for the holidays,” she said. “We’re happy to provide the material.”
Lt. Nick Katzenstein, the Santa Barbara Police Dept. public information officer, said the department will have a number of check points throughout the county in December, including Dec. 1-2, 15-16, 29 and 30.
“We hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday season this year,” he said.