By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
As they do every holiday season, area police officers will target drunk drivers in Del Norte County with extra patrols.
"Nationwide, it's a major problem," said Crescent City Police Department Sgt. Garrett Scott.
Alcohol-related traffic accidents have killed at least one person in the county for each of the last six years. About five alcohol-related traffic accidents occur in Crescent City each year, Scott said.
That number could be higher. Since the start of 2006, city police have arrested nearly 30 people on DUI charges.
"That's a lot of potential for injury, collisions, fatal collisions, pedestrians being killed," Scott said, noting that many of the drivers tested well over the state's .08 percent blood-alcohol content limit. "It's absolutely unacceptable."
This year, the department secured a $22,000 grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety that paid city and state police officers overtime money to patrol for traffic offenses, including drunk driving.
The city police department aims to get the grant again next year, said chief Doug Plack.
The department also secured a $180,000 grant from the state to buy an 18-foot long trailer for police to use in more DUI checkpoints next year. The trailer will give officers space and equipment to process arrests and stay at checkpoints for longer stretches of time, Plack said. The money will also direct an officer to focus on enforcing traffic laws.
Although they planned no checkpoints this holiday weekend, California Highway Patrol officers planned to boost patrols looking for drunk drivers, spokesperson Don Bloyd said.
The patrol also called on citizens to call 911 if they spotted suspected drunk drivers. Some signs include crossing lanes, driving slowly, turning abruptly, braking erratically, making wide turns or swerving.