Authorities Increasing Checkpoints For Holiday Weekend

"Avoid the 30" campaign starts Friday

Law enforcement agencies throughout Riverside County will be ramping up patrols and staffing checkpoints this Fourth of July weekend in a coordinated campaign to snare drunken or drug-impaired drivers, authorities said.

"Driving while drunk isn't worth the tremendous risk," said Riverside police Chief Russ Leach. "No matter what your age, if you've had too much holiday spirit, you'd better find a safe and sober ride home or your chances of arrest are high."

The "Avoid the 30" campaign -- named for the local and state law enforcement agencies that operate in the county -- will get under way Friday and wrap up early Monday morning, according to Riverside police spokeswoman Karen Haverkamp, who directs the Avoid campaign.

During the crackdown, local police agencies will conduct saturation patrols and establish sobriety and license checkpoints. The California Highway Patrol will also be in "maximum enforcement" mode, with 80 percent of its officers on freeways and county roads, looking for DUI suspects, speeders and seatbelt violators.

Five checkpoints are slated for Friday night in Coachella, Corona, Moreno Valley, Murrieta and Riverside, according to Haverkamp. She said four checkpoints are set for Saturday in Blythe, Desert Hot Springs, La Quinta and Riverside. On Sunday, there will be five checkpoints in Moreno Valley, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Riverside.

Overtime pay and other costs associated with the checkpoints are covered by a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grant.

During last year's Fourth of July deployments, nine people were arrested on suspicion of drunken or drug-impaired driving, according to statistics posted on the Avoid the 30 Web site. Eighteen people were cited for driving with a suspended license, and four people were arrested for having outstanding warrants, statistics showed.

Around 60 vehicles were impounded during last year's holiday campaign.

Statewide, 17 people died and 382 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes during the 2008 Fourth of July weekend, according to authorities.

"Too many people still fail to understand that alcohol and driving don't mix," said Haverkamp. "Impaired driving is no accident -- nor is it a victimless crime. It's vitally important that we bring this tragic situation to an end."

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