North County law enforcement agencies band together to combat DUIs

North County law enforcement agencies band together to combat DUIs
Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter said that the combined eight law enforcement agencies thought of the idea for the “Avoid the 8 on 78” campaign about five months ago. Photo by Ellen Wright

REGION — In an effort to combat people driving under the influence on state Route 78, eight law enforcement agencies have banded together to create the “Avoid the 8 on 78” campaign.

“There’s one thing that we have in common in North County, the 78 joins us from the ocean to the San Pasqual Valley,” Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter said at a press conference on Friday evening.

Carter said that by joining together, each agency will benefit from a force multiplier. By pooling resources, each agency will have eight times more manpower to help with DUI checkpoints, roving patrols and saturation points to combat DUIs.

“The force multiplier is huge for us because we’re all generally small agencies so we can all come together and work together and put more people on the problem and have a bigger impact,” Carlsbad Police Chief Gary Morrison said.

A saturation point is when officers “saturate” a specific geographic area to look for drunken drivers, Morrison said.
Between 2010 and 2013, the California Highway Patrol made more than 1,600 DUI arrests on the 78. Carter said that of those drivers, about 12 percent caused a crash resulting in injury.

Throughout San Diego County, 2,236 people were injured in alcohol related crashes, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The mangled Toyota Corolla was involved in a DUI accident Oct. 12 that killed two men. Photo by Ellen Wright

The mangled Toyota Corolla was involved in a DUI accident Oct. 12 that killed two men. Photo by Ellen Wright

Carter said while the DUI rates along the 78 may not be much higher than countywide; all of the agencies see the importance of combating DUIs.

“The numbers may not be off the charts, they may not be more than any other part in the county but we feel as a community that we can make a difference so that’s why were choosing to make this a campaign,” Carter said.

DUI responses and alcohol related crashes cost the city of Escondido $100,000 in public safety resources.

The campaign will come out of each individual agency’s budget, Carter said, adding that it will most likely extend past the holidays, too.

According to a report done by the court-mandated drinking program for DUI offenders, the Place of Last Drink Program, 41 percent of DUI offenders had their last drink at a bar or restaurant.

The enforcement agencies taking part include Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, Cal State San Marcos, the city of San Marcos, Escondido, Palomar College and the California Highway Patrol.

Morrison said DUIs negatively affect the lives of people in North County.

“It’s damaging families and affecting the quality of life in our counties,” Morrison said.

Lorena Ramirez, lost her son and brother in an accident on Bear Valley Parkway Oct. 12 and spoke at the press conference to caution against drunk driving.

She is allowing the Escondido Police Department to use the crushed Toyota Corolla her family members were killed in for demonstrations. The driver of the Corolla, who was under the influence, caused the crash.

“Don’t drink and drive, it’s not worth it,” Ramirez said while fighting back tears.

Escondido Councilman Ed Gallo was at the conference to show support. He said over the years, he’s attended lots of DUI checkpoints and was shocked by what he saw.

He said one man driving on Lincoln Avenue could hardly stand.

“He was so drunk and yet he was driving a car,” Gallo said. “These are the type of people that need to be taken off the roads.”

Carter said that because of the partnership between agencies, patrolling will increase on the roads.

“The idea here is you don’t know where we are but we’re going to be out there and we’re going to be out there in force,” Carter said.

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