Drunk driving arrests increase for holiday period

Nearly 500 people were arrested for driving under the influence in San Diego County during a 10-day period ending the day after Christmas, according to a law enforcement coalition.

AVOID reported that 496 DUI arrests were made from Dec. 16 through Dec. 26, compared to 323 during the same period last year.

The California Highway Patrol, one of the coalition partners, was especially busy during the first 60 hours of the holiday weekend, beginning at 6:01 p.m. Christmas Eve, the agency reported in a separate statement.

The CHP made 60 DUI arrests in San Diego County this year, compared to the 57 last year. There were three traffic deaths during that time, compared to none during the same period last year, the CHP reported.

The fatalities include a pedestrian struck by an SUV early Saturday morning on Interstate 5 near Palm Avenue; Victor Hernandez Acosta Jr., of Chula Vista, who lost control of his car early Friday on southbound Interstate 15 near the 805 interchange and struck a tree; and a pedestrian who was struck in Escondido near the beginning of holiday weekend and died Saturday, CHP Officer Jesse Udovich said.

In Los Angeles County, the CHP made 236 DUI arrests from 6:01 p.m. Christmas Eve to 6 a.m. Sunday — compared to 158 the same time last year, it said, but no fatalities were reported. In Orange County, the CHP made 22 DUI arrests from 6:01 p.m. Christmas Eve to 6 a.m. Sunday — the same as last year, but no fatalities were reported.

Statewide 16 people died in traffic accidents, the same as last year, according to the CHP. However, drunken driving arrests have skyrocketed around California, from 824 in 2008 to 970 in 2009.

AVOID members reminded motorists that the year-end holiday period is among the year’s deadliest and encouraged them to report drunk drivers.

“If you see a car swerving all over the road, driving dangerously without headlights at night or signaling one way and turning the other, make that call to 911,’' Glendora Police Chief Chuck Montoya said in the AVOID statement.

Law enforcement officials were expected to more anti-DUI efforts in nearly every city in San Diego County around the New Year’s holiday.

The AVOID campaign was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.