Despite Deaths, DUI Arrests Skyrocket

Holiday DUI crackdown

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    SAN BRUNO, CA - NOVEMBER 27: A man is given a field sobriety test after he was stopped by San Bruno Police officers at a DUI checkpoint November 27, 2006 in San Bruno, California. San Francisco Bay Area law enforcement agencies have begun to set up DUI checkpoints as the holiday season gets underway. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    A huge spike in the number of drunk driving arrests during the holidays shows that despite public awareness campaigns, the message isn't sinking in.

    The newly released statistics from the final two weeks of 2009 show a significant increase compared to the same period last year.

    The winter holiday DUI crackdown proved to be a busy one for local authorities.
    Between December 18 and December 31 - area police, CHP and sheriff deputies arrested 798 people suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That’s nearly double the number from the same period in 2008.

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    "Some of it may be there's more enforcement. We've done a heck of a lot of enforcement this winter season and we plan on continuing that through 2010," Sgt. Damon Blankenbaker said.

    Despite a New Years eve plea to the public, some drivers continued to defy laws and logic by driving drunk, resulting in three deaths on New Years Day according to the Sheriffs Dept.

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    One of the victims, 21-year-old Elaina Ortiz, was six months pregnant.

    "This is what I had and lost my baby to a drunk driver," her mother Rhona Zamora said, sobbing and holding up a picture of her daughter.

    2009 was a year where DUI fatalities seemed to dominate headlines.

    In a high profile trial Alan Mabrey, a man convicted of six previous DUIs, was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison after his seventh killed a young woman in Pacific Beach.

    "He made the choice to drive too drunk to see our beautiful Emily crossing in the crosswalk in her own neighborhood," the victim’s mother Ellie Dowdy said.

    Teen DUIs, like the one in Rancho Santa Fe that killed a 17 year old Torrey Pines student, also brought attention to the problem. Yet, according to these latest statistics, the consequences aren't sinking in.

    "I think you're going to see, for 2010, a lot more programs for enforcement and education coming," Sgt. Blankenbaker said.

    The Winter Holiday "AVOID" campaign lasts until Sunday. The Sheriffs Department should have final statistics on Monday.