Assemblyman Pedro Nava and other prominent members of the community held a press conference yesterday morning to introduce the $307,400 grant aimed to prevent drunk-driving accidents in Santa Barbara County.

The state Office of Traffic Safety awarded the grant to the California Highway Patrol to fund alcohol and drug abuse education programs in the UCSB area. At the press conference, which took place at Embarcadero Hall, government and CHP representatives explained the objectives of the anti-DUI campaign.

“We think awareness is the key, and we are hoping that students give other students good advice when it comes to drinking and driving,” CHP Officer Adam Cuevas said.

Preventive efforts to reduce alcohol-related car collisions in the Santa Barbara area will be gradually implemented throughout the next year, and Cuevas said he is confident that the new programs will help increase public safety.

Associate Dean of Students Yonie Harris, who represented UCSB at the conference, said approximately 23,000 people are killed each year in alcohol-related accidents in the U.S., a statistic that is much lower within the campus community.

“Although UCSB has the lowest incidence of DUI crashes of all the UC campuses, we need to eliminate all of these problems,” he said. “UCSB is aggressive in approaching strategies to eliminate drunk driving and the grant that has been received is an example of this.”

The grant – which has also been given to law enforcement agencies in Humboldt County – will be used to prevent drinking and driving not only in I.V., but also within a 50-mile radius of the community, Cuevas said.

“This is an issue that goes beyond Isla Vista and includes people outside the area,” he said.

Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone compared the problem of drinking and driving in today’s society to that of cigarette smoking several decades ago.

“When I grew up both my parents smoked, but nowadays nobody smokes and there aren’t ashtrays around anywhere because people were educated about the issue,” Firestone said.

The conference closed with a speech by Goleta CHP Captain Jeff Scoba. He said the success of the prevention program depends on teamwork between local law enforcement groups.

“All the law enforcement agencies will work together to create a combination of educational programs and increased law enforcement at local events because all agencies are short-handed,” Scoba said.