Avoid the 21, Alameda County's law enforcement crackdown on drunk driving, has been named best multi-jurisdictional effort in the state for 2009 by the California Law Enforcement Challenge.
At the same time, the county announced plans for another DUI crackdown by police officers, sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers in Alameda County over the Independence Day weekend,, starting Friday and ending at midnight Monday.
The announcement by the California Highway Patrol and the state's Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), sponsors of the competition, lauded the 12-year-old crackdown on its officer training, policies, public information, officer recognition, enforcement and results.
There are 41 similar countywide crackdowns in California, all sponsored by OTS through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Avoid campaigns are the largest funded statewide crackdowns in the United States, according to NHTSA.
"Multi-agency DUI enforcement campaigns are collectively making tremendous impacts at lowering deaths and injuries in our communities," said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy.
"By combining resources targeting DUI problem areas, enhancing training and by providing public awareness of the dangers of DUI, as the Avoid campaigns do, the traffic safety community is confident that we will see more lives saved."
Police agencies in Alameda County made 897 DUI arrests during a 17-day enforcement effort at the end of last year, trailing only Los Angeles County, which had 2,622 in handcuffs for the crime.
"The Avoid the 21 coalition is a strong leader in the Bay Area," said Lt. Ava Garavatti of the Livermore Police Dept., campaign coordinator. "It is gratifying to our fine DUI officers and deputies to be named best in the state. It is a real tribute to their skill and determination."
Second place went to Avoid the 8 in San Francisco. Tied for third were Avoid the 18 in Monterey County and Avoid the 12 in Santa Barbara County. Jan Ford of Palo Alto is public information director for all four multi-jurisdictional category winners.
Along with the DUI crackdown planned this weekend, Fremont police plan a sobriety checkpoint for Saturday from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday. All available CHP officers from the county's four squads will be assigned to road duty, said Lt. B.J. Whitten of the Oakland office.
Departments serving Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, Albany and Union City will send out extra officers on DUI saturation patrols, said Lt. Ava Garavatti of the Livermore police, who coordinates Avoid the 21, the county's multi-cultural DUI crackdown.
"A DUI conviction can cost you a surprisingly large amount of money," Garavatti said. "It can be $7,000 or more for all the expenses, never mind that your insurance premiums can go through the roof. Beyond that, how would you ever live with yourself if you hurt or killed someone while you were driving drunk?"
Avoid the 21 will hit the roads again for an 18-day summer DUI enforcement mobilization that starts Aug. 20 and ends Sept. 6, just after the Labor Day weekend. It is part of a national campaign.
During last year's Independence Day holiday, 373 people died at the hands of impaired drivers throughout the state. Avoid the 21 made 80 DUI arrests over the same weekend last year and 112 in 2008.