By Patricia Lynn Henley
Avoid the holiday blues, the holiday khakis, the holiday olive-greens or whatever the colors of local law-enforcement uniforms. 'Tis the season for partying, but here's a highly sobering fact: There have been only two days in the last three years when no one in the Bay Area was either injured or killed due to the choices of an alcohol-impaired driver. Don't drive under the influence. That's the message from 14 law agencies in the nine-county Bay Area, including Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties. Their annual Avoid the 14 campaign is a massive crackdown on holiday drunken drivers, with sobriety checkpoints and intensive patrols through Jan. 1. Last year they nabbed 2,619 DUI suspects in three weeks. "If you've ever wanted to frustrate a police officer in a good way, here's your chance," says Avoid the 14 chairman Capt. Greg Corrales of San Francisco. "Make it impossible for us to find anyone to arrest. Drive sober yourself or designate a sober driver." The goal is to lower the number of injuries and fatalities from DUI-related accidents. "DUIs have been on the rise, nationwide and statewide, for arrests, deaths and injuries, for the last six years," says Sgt. Wayne Ziese, spokesman for the CHP's Golden Gate Division in Vallejo. In 2004, there were an estimated 50,491 DUI-related crashes statewide, with 1,462 deaths and 31,538 people injured. Marin County had 316 DUI accidents, five deaths and 149 injuries; Sonoma County tallied 885 DUI collisions, 23 dead and 505 injured; and Napa County saw 293 accidents, 10 deaths and 174 injuries. If those numbers don't impress, consider potential costs for being popped for DUI: $100 nonrefundable bail fees; $200 for towing and storage; approximately $500 to hire a lawyer just to plead guilty; $1,500 in court fines and fees; $650 for court-mandated alcohol education courses; and $100 to reissue a suspended license, plus increased car insurance premiums and missing work to appear in court. Happy holidays. Be careful out there.
The California attorney general has repeatedly asked RJReynolds Tobacco Company to stop mailing its "Drinks on Us" birthday promotion. The envelope proclaims "Camel. It's your Birthday. Drinks on us." Inside are six coasters, each with a recipe for an alcoholic drink and bearing such responsible phrases as "Layer it on, go 'til daybreak" and "Mix three shots together over ice, then make sure you're sitting." RJR officials claim the drink coasters are only sent to folks 21 or older.
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