The Santa Barbara Police Dept. will begin an aggressive enforcement of DUI laws this month.
The department recently received a $194,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, which will allow the department to keep more police officers on duty for longer hours and fund specific operations such as red light monitoring. Police will specifically target motorcyclists, hoping to put a tourniquet on the rising number of motorcycle deaths.
Santa Barbara Police Sgt. Noel Rivas said the city has an unusually high number of drunk drivers.
“Based on the 2007 rankings, the city of Santa Barbara was ranked fifth for DUI offenses out of 106 similar-sized California cities,” Rivas said. “We are hoping with the grant funding that we can reduce the number of persons killed or injured in alcohol collisions.”
Police, however, have already been busy enforcing DUI laws. Over Halloween weekend, officers with the Santa Barbara City Police Dept. arrested 11 drivers for drinking and driving.
Among them was a 31-year-old man arrested last Friday after crashing his truck at the corner of Bath Street and Mission Street.
Rivas said people should be conscious of the dangers of driving.
“Drivers need to be more attentive,” Rivas said. “You are driving a 6,000 pound car, so be more conscientious. Designate a person to drive and follow the rules of the road.”
To prevent drunk driving, the city will also use the grant money to fund DUI checkpoints, as well as sting operations. Police plan to catch drivers with suspended licenses if they attempt to drive away from court.
Police also plan to establish special Motorcycle Safety Enforcement Operations. Motorcycle fatalities in California have increased by 175 percent over the last decade. According to the SBPD, 560 riders died in the state in 2008, up from 204 in 1998.
Rivas said the grant will fund these special operations until September 2010.
“Each operation will be overtime for officers,” Rivas said. “There are 12 checkpoints in Santa Barbara County, known as ‘Avoid the 12,’ or the 12 law enforcement agencies. An officer on duty will check a suspected driver for DUI in one of the checkpoints and also check for a valid license.”
In addition to catching DUI offenders within city limits, county law enforcement has also been busy addressing the problem of drunk driving in Goleta.
Seven people were arrested in Goleta last weekend on suspicion of drunk driving.
One driver screamed obscenities and challenged police as he was arrested. The man even kicked a police car door, increasing the list of charges against him. On further investigation, police found the uncooperative suspect had a $10,000 warrant for his arrest.