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Drunken driving a persistent problem

If trend remains the same, SCV will exceed last year’s triple-digit arrests; law-enforcement checkpo

Posted: July 10, 2012 4:00 a.m.
Updated: July 10, 2012 4:00 a.m.

One week into July, and already a third of all arrests made in the Santa Clarita Valley have been for drunken driving, statistics show.

Compared to the same statistics last July — when more than 100 motorists were arrested on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs — this July shows the same trend.

If the rate remains the same, the SCV will exceed last July’s triple digit DUI arrests.

“Based on statistics, 50 percent of Americans are involved in an alcohol-related accident in their lifetime,” said Officer J.C. Lesnet of the California Highway Patrol’s Newhall station.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be the one drinking,” he said. “You can be the unfortunate one hit by someone who has been drinking.”

So far this month, deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and California Highway Patrol officers have arrested 95 people overall, 32 of whom were arrested on suspicion of driving intoxicated.

That works out to an average of four people every day.

At this rate, an estimated 124 people will have been charged with DUI locally.

Constant campaign

Despite continual anti-DUI campaigns launched by law enforcement agencies and other groups, the number of people charged with drinking and driving last year at this time remains unchanged this year.

“You would think that with the number of collisions, the number of fatalities, everything you report, everything we do, that the city does, the state, you would think the hint would be taken. It’s not,” said traffic Sgt. Rich Cohen of the local sheriff’s station.

Beginning June 29 and ending Sunday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department carried out its annual Independence Day anti-drunken-driving campaign involving 21 sobriety checkpoints set up across the county.

In that period, scores of deputies from 58 specially assembled “DUI saturation patrols” and more than 100 law enforcement agencies arrested 1,188 individuals for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Local DUI arrests are the result of street deputies patrolling the Santa Clarita Valley and a checkpoint conducted by California Highway Patrol officers.


Scheduled DUI checkpoints announced in advance have, on average, netted one arrest per hundreds of motorists stopped, according to numbers gathered by the local sheriff’s station and the local CHP station.

The CHP’s checkpoint was conducted Friday night through Saturday morning near the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Sand Canyon Road.

Between 6:30 p.m. Friday and 2:30 a.m. Saturday, CHP officers stopped 301 motorists, said Sgt. John Lutz.

They made one arrest for impaired driving even though they subjected 25 motorists to sobriety tests such as walking a straight line.

Local sheriff’s deputies report the same ratio of arrests made to drivers stopped at their checkpoints.

Between March and May, only three impaired driving arrests were made out of more than 3,600 motorists stopped at DUI checkpoints.

Responding to those numbers in May, Capt. Paul Becker of the local sheriff’s station said arrests represent only one component of the DUI checkpoint program.

Educating motorists about the risks of drunken driving was a fundamental reason for carrying out the campaigns, he said.

The CHP concurs.

“The goal of the DUI checkpoint is to create awareness among the motoring public, to deter people from driving under the influence, and to keep the streets safe for all,” CHP officials said in a media release issued last week.

“Even though arrest totals do not rise dramatically, the psychological influence a checkpoint has on the motoring public is invaluable,” they said.

Drugs or alcohol

Why do people keep drinking and driving?

That question was put to Mike Schaub, director of outreach for the Social Model Recovery System, which, in conjunction with several alcohol rehabilitation outlets in Los Angeles County, works specifically with the Pasadena Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency.

“Alcohol is still the number one abused drug,” he said Monday.

When asked why the DUI arrest statistics seem to remain unchanged month to month, he said: “I’m not surprised. I’m more sad than surprised.

“The DUI numbers are not for alcohol alone. A significant number could have been from weed.

“One thing I can tell you is that the number of DUI charges stemming from marijuana — not alcohol — are significant,” he said.

Schaub said he regularly participates in presentations on substance abuse, often sharing the same discussion panel with law enforcement officers who make DUI arrests.

“There seems to be a paradigm shift,” Schaub said. “The general attitude toward the use of marijuana by kids growing up is a perception that it’s legal to smoke weed.

“In some cases, these kids grow up in houses with parents who are smoking weed.”

Local law enforcement officers who make arrests don’t distinguish between those that involve alcohol from those involving drugs.



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