Police out in force looking for drunk drivers

People who have had too much to drink should know police throughout the Bay Area and across the state are out in force looking for drunk drivers.

As part of what’s called the “Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign,” law enforcement agencies have extra officers on patrol and are setting up additional sobriety checkpoints this weekend and through Sept. 2.

The campaign is part of a nationwide effort  to keep drunk drivers off of freeways and roads and to reduce the number of people killed in alcohol-related crashes.

In announcing the end of summer crackdown California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow said:

“Our education and enforcement efforts play a key role in keeping the motoring public safe. With the public’s cooperation and commitment to abstain from drinking and driving, lives will be saved. Those who make the poor choice to drive impaired should be prepared to face the consequences.”

In Palo Alto, police added a twist to their enforcement efforts. Chief Dennis Burns was on patrol Friday night, offering a virtual ride-along as an officer with him tweeted their patrol of the city’s streets.

Police were expecting to put out between 150 to 200 tweets during the ride-along, which was set to end around 2 a.m. Saturday.

Officials say every year about one-third of all motor vehicle traffic deaths in the nation involve one or more drunk drivers.

In 2011 — the more recent  year statistics were available — 9,878 people died in crashes involving drunk drivers. In California, 774 died in crashes were blamed on impaired driving.

The director of the California Office of Traffic Safety, Chris Murphy, said:

“As people get together to celebrate the holiday weekend, it is important that they remain responsible behind the wheel.  Driving under the influence is extremely dangerous. California is increasing enforcement during the holiday to ensure that those who choose to drive while impaired will be caught and arrested.”

The California Highway Patrol, Avoid DUI Task Forces and more than 115 local police departments across the state are setting up DUI checkpoints and operating saturation patrols as they look for drunk drivers.

Besides spending some time behind bars, officials say a first-time DUI conviction can cost up to $10,000 in fines and legal fees.  A person convicted of drunken driving will also see their insurance rates soar.