SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The California Highway Patrol implemented its maximum enforcement period at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday night, which concludes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday night, in an effort to keep California roads and highways safe.
An uptick in local DUI-related fatalities ahead of the holidays in the Santa Barbara area put the CHP on heightened alert this busy travel season.
"Through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday weekends we're going to have maximum enforcement which is to have as many officers on the road as possible. We're looking for people speeding, DUIs and just any other activity," said Officer Jonathan Gutierrez, Public Information Officer for the CHP.
Officers are spread out through busy corridors, keeping tabs on dangerous drivers and those not following the rules of the road.
Driving under the influence continues to rank among top concerns.
"We want people to have a good time during this holiday season but we ask them to be responsible."
Despite years of prolific campaigns by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and extensive outreach over the decades targeting teen and adult drivers, Gutierrez said the number of DUIs logged in south Santa Barbara County in 2021 (397) is creeping up to pre-pandemic numbers (456) and could exceed them by the end of the year.
Stats provided by the CHP reveal, on average, California law enforcement officers make a DUI arrest every five minutes during the holidays. Gutierrez said the majority stem from alcohol, not cannabis, as a growing number of people might think.
"In California, the CHP made over 60,000 DUI arrests and in 2018 we also had over 3,800 deaths caused by DUIs," said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez cited other numbers reflecting DUI-related costs. He said a first-time DUI driver, on average, can expect to pay $6,500. However, that number can climb up to $30,000, with jail, impound and attorney fees, along with a host of other costs.
Gutierrez stressed that drinking and driving is not worth risking your life or someone else's.
"So if they're going to go out, call a taxi or a ride-share company, have a friend that can take them home safely and just do the right thing. And, if they see somebody else that's drinking and gonna drive, please stop them and get them home safely."
The CHP also states that distracted driving, especially involving cell phones, is just as dangerous as driving under the influence.
To date, the latest CHP statistic shows more than 97,402 California drivers received tickets in 2019 for using wireless phones.
Gutierrez said it's unknown how many fatal accidents are linked to cell phone usage at the time of a crash as the CHP is unable to track that information.