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GILROY
– The Gilroy Police Department made just half of the number of
arrests for driving under the influence during this holiday season
as it did last year, according to statistics released Thursday.
GILROY – The Gilroy Police Department made just half of the number of arrests for driving under the influence during this holiday season as it did last year, according to statistics released Thursday.

Only 21 drivers were arrested on Gilroy streets in the 20 days between Dec. 13 and Jan. 1 during the annual “Avoid the 13” anti-drunk driving campaign; 42 were arrested during the same stretch last year.

Local law officials say there are several factors for the dramatic decline in DUIs, including the stormy holiday weather, increased awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving and the fact that both Christmas and New Year’s Day fell in the middle of the week this year – meaning many people had less time off this year.

“People are starting to realize the horrible consequences of drinking and driving,” said Corp. Rosa Quinones of the GPD. “We were lucky this year that we had a lot of factors working in our favor, and I think our department did a great job of getting the word out that (drinking and driving) wouldn’t be tolerated.”

Of the 15 law agencies throughout the county that participated in Avoid the 13 this year, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department was the only agency to match Gilroy’s 50-percent drop in DUI arrests – reducing its DUIs from 88 to 44.

The Morgan Hill Police Department made 38 DUI arrests this year compared to 42 last year, and the local office of the California Highway Patrol made one more DUI arrest than last year, totaling 34.

“We had a bit more manpower this year than last, so I think that helped our enforcement,” said Terry Mayes, spokeswoman for the CHP. “We see every DUI arrest as a way to get a dangerous person off the road.”

Throughout the county, law officers made 810 DUI arrests during the 20-day crack down this year, which is 40 less than last year. Only four of the 25 injury accidents involving alcohol were recorded in South County – last year there were 26 injury accidents in the county – and there was one drinking and driving related fatality this year in the county, matching last year’s total.

During the first year of Avoid the 13, in 1973, there were 13 fatal DUI accidents in the county, according to Vic Heman, the Avoid the 13 coordinator with the California Office of Traffic Safety

“In the last 20 years we have seen a significant decline in drinking and driving in the county – especially around the holidays,” Heman said. “This year we had one fatality in Sunnyvale, and our goal won’t be achieved until we get that number to zero.”

During Avoid the 13, Gilroy police used a combination of a Dec. 20 sobriety checkpoint at Leavesley and Monterey roads, DUI sting operations near bars and educational public events to try and eliminate drinking and driving in the city. Seven DUI warrants also were served in Gilroy during Avoid the 13, named after the 13 law enforcement agencies which participated in the countywide effort during its inaugural year 1973.

“We realize education and getting to the people at as many levels as possible is the best way to alert people of the dangers of drinking and driving,” Quinones said. “It starts with the D.A.R.E. program in schools and hopefully spreads throughout the community.”

On average, a Californian convicted of non-accident DUI pays $3,000 in various fines and fees and loses his or her drivers license for a year. The legal Blood Alcohol limit in the state is .08, which is less than three 12-ounce beers in two hours for a 160-pound male, according to the state.

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