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County DUI arrests up over holiday season

COAST CITIES — Arrests for drunken driving over the holiday season rose significantly in San Diego County when compared to the previous year, according to authorities. Officers from 14 San Diego law enforcement agencies arrested 887 drivers during the Winter Holiday DUI Mobilization crackdown, which ran from Dec. 18 to Jan. 3. In 2008, police arrested 496 drivers during the same period. The mobilization, which is part of the state’s AVOID Anti-DUI campaign and brings law enforcement agencies together to enforce impaired driving, consisted of sobriety check points, saturation and routine patrols, San Diego Sheriff’s Sergeant Jason Rothlein said. Five deaths have been attributed to drivers under the influence this holiday season in San Diego County, Rothlein said. While Rothlein couldn’t pinpoint what caused the spike this year, he said he didn’t think it had to do with an increased presence by law enforcement because the grants being used to fund DUI operations were the same as last year. “The disturbing thing is that regardless of all the DUI awareness, DUI education, all those different programs, we’re still having really, really high numbers,” Rothlein said. During the New Year’s weekend, from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3, sheriff’s deputies made seven arrest — five in Encinitas and two in Solana Beach — in North County coast cities compared to six last year during the same 2008-2009 holiday period, said Jeffrey Vandersip, a crime analyst with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. Across town, Carlsbad police reported one arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence for the holiday weekend, which was the same as the previous year, spokeswoman Lynn Diamond said. Statewide, over this New Year’s holiday weekend, CHP officers made 1,388 DUI arrests, down from 1,456 arrests last year. Authorities reported 36 traffic deaths statewide over the New Year’s weekend. The new year also brings in a law that will place stiffer penalties on repeat DUI offenders. Starting July 1, a second DUI conviction will result in the suspension of the defendant’s license for 90 days before they can get a restricted license and six months for a third conviction. Offenders will also be required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device, or IID, in their vehicle. An IID is wired to a vehicle’s ignition and requires a breath sample before the engine will start and periodically as the person drives.