n By Melissa Flores
Special to the Dispatch
Gilroy – Last weekend was no holiday for California Highway Patrol officers who worked at maximum enforcement to keep drivers safe as travelers headed off for three days of beach bathing, camping and other warm-weather activities.
Police arrested 118 drivers suspected of driving under the influence in Santa Clara County, up from 46 in 2004, an increase of 156 percent compared to 62 percent in the nine other counties in the Bay Area. The higher number of arrests is due to an increase in officers and sobriety checkpoints, said Chief Steve Lodge of the Santa Clara Police Department.
This year, five collisions involved alcohol from Friday to Monday in the county, compared to none last year.
DUI arrests in the Gilroy and Hollister area were up one from 2004 over the first three-day weekend of the summer while collisions were down, said Officer Matt Ramirez, the public affairs officer for Gilroy’s CHP office. Officers made 13 DUI arrests, up from 12 in 2004.
They also responded to 24 collisions including four that were related to DUIs. There were 28 collisions recorded for 2004 in comparison.
“It was really busy,” said Ramirez, who spent part of his weekend directing traffic at the intersection of Routes 152 and 156 in San Benito County, a location where travelers heading towards Hollister and those heading east into the Central Valley experience major delays on holiday weekends.
“Our main thing is to catch drunks and reduce collisions,” Ramirez said. “Maybe just by being out there, we kept some of those collisions from happening and saved some lives.”
In addition to increasing patrols over the holiday, the CHP geared up for the long weekend by increasing publicity for their “Click It or Ticket” campaign, an effort to get Californians to fasten that seat belt. Gilroy and Hollister area CHP officers gave out 57 tickets for seat belt violations during the holiday weekend.
By Melissa Flores