It will either bolster the argument that sobriety checkpoints are working or prop up the side that claims such enforcement operations are unnecessary, but in either event drunken-driving fatalities are down dramatically in California, according to state data. A record low 791 people were killed in DUI crashes on California roadways in 2010, compared to 950 in 2009. That's the lowest annual total since figures have been compiled and the single largest yearly drop in DUI deaths in the past 14 years, according to the state Office of Traffic Safety.
The office adds that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figures show DUI deaths in California increased yearly from 1998 to 2005, but have decreased every year since 2005.
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"This marks a huge milestone in the fight against drunk driving," said Christopher J. Murphy, director of the California office, in a statement. "While we are elated by these figures, there were still 791 lives, futures, and dreams that will never be fully realized. We cannot back off from our ultimate goal--toward zero deaths."
Since the Office of Traffic Safety credits the record number of DUI checkpoints conducted in 2010 as partly responsible for the sharp reduction in such deaths, expect more of the same in 2012. The office administers funds to law enforcement agencies in Orange County and elsewhere in the state, through grants from the NHTSA. In 2010, $16.8 million was allocated, compared to $11.7 million the year before.
Besides more checkpoints, credit for the decline in deaths was attributed to countywide Avoid DUI Task Force operations that team the California Highway Patrol with local police agencies to catch impaired drivers, "Report Drunk Drivers Call 911" messages flashed on CALTRANS message signs and assorted anti-DUI endeavors by the DMV, Alcoholic Beverage Control, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at UC Berkeley and RADD, the entertainment industry's voice for road safety.
California's next DUI crackdown period, which is aimed at boozy drivers leaving holiday celebrations, begins Friday night.