The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. made 228 DUI arrests during a 17-day period this holiday season.
The arrest spree was part of a county anti-DUI program known as “Avoid the 12” — named after the dozen practicing law enforcement agencies in the county — which began on Dec. 18 and concluded on Jan. 4. County law enforcement made five more arrests this year than the year before, even though this year’s campaign spanned five fewer days.
The increased DUI enforcement was marked by sobriety checkpoints, in-city DUI patrols and California Highway Patrol freeway saturation throughout the county, especially in areas of heavy traffic, according to campaign coordinator deputy Win Smith.
“Our arrest total is a testament to the skill and determination of the officers and deputies from our one dozen participating agencies,” Smith said in a press release. “Last year’s campaign was five days longer and we still came in five arrests ahead of last year’s total of 223.”
Jan Ford, a public information officer for the Avoid the 12 campaign, also said the local police force has demonstrated admirable motivation and drive to make Santa Barbara County a safer place for the public.
“We have a very dedicated and talented group of officers in Santa Barbara County, including the UCSB Police Department,” Ford said.
County officials were happy to report a decrease in harmful DUI-related accidents in comparison with the 2008 holiday season. The number of DUI-related collisions dropped from 18 in 2008 to 10 in 2009, injuries fell from 22 to 15 people and fatalities were cut in half, from two to one.
According to a press release, the only fatal DUI-related car accident of the 2009 holidays occurred on New Year’s Day, when a Volkswagen travelling at 100 mph collided with a fence and telephone pole on West Clark Avenue east of Highway 1, bordering the Orcutt Ranch.
Twenty-one-year-old passenger Damian Coles of Santa Maria was fatally injured, while the other passenger, Nathan M. Beebe, 22, was seriously injured but was later reported to be stable after being taken to a hospital. Driver Cody R. Stutts, who suffered moderate injuries from the crash, has been placed under arrest for felony DUI and felony manslaughter.
Ford credits the lower number of collisions, injuries and fatalities this holiday season to the higher number of arrests. If left unchecked, Ford said the five additional people who were detained this year could have contributed to more car accidents and therefore additional injuries and deaths.
“Well, [the reason for] fewer injuries was that people got arrested before they could injure someone,” Ford said.
Nearly $31,000 was budgeted for the rigorous Avoid the 12 campaign through state and federal grants from departments including the California Office of Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.