By ERICK N. NELSON
Inside Bay Area (California)
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All Rights Reserved
More than 100 Bay Area police departments put out extra patrols and arrested 381 motorists on drunken driving charges over the five-day Independence Day weekend as police blamed drinking for two deaths.
Authorities said they believe alcohol use was a factor in fatal crashes that killed a passenger in a head-on Oakland collision and a motorcyclist on a rural Marin County road.
The death toll was the highest for a Fourth of July weekend since 2003, when five people were killed in alcohol-related crashes. In each of 2004 and 2005, holiday weekend drinking claimed one life.
The AVOID Campaign, first formed in 1973 in Santa Clara County, aims to put extra police on the streets and highways to catch drunken drivers and discourage driving under the influence of alcohol.
Statewide, the Highway Patrol charged 1,983 with DUI and 38 people were killed on CHP-patrolled roadways. Another 12 drivers were killed elsewhere, bringing the death toll to 50.
"The idea is trying to get people to 'avoid' getting themselves arrested as the result of a DUI or getting someone in the morgue," said Marty Neideffer, spokesman for Alameda County AVOID 21.
A suspected drunken driver crashed his 1993 Dodge Spirit into a 1974 Chevy El Camino on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland just before 1 p.m. Saturday, according to Oakland Police.
A passenger in the El Camino, George Gates, 42, of Oakland died of his injuries. The driver fled the scene and police found him later when he sought medical treatment.
Neideffer said the San Pablo accident was the weekend's first alcohol-related fatality.
On that day, Alameda County law enforcement agencies reported 37 arrests for driving under the influence -- the highest of the weekend. The average daily arrests for the weekend, 29, was consistent with recent years' arrests, although the five-day weekend bumped the total arrests up from 125 in 2005 to 146 for Alameda County, he said.
The second fatality occurred on Nicasio Valley Road, in the Marin County town of Nicasio.
A 62-year-old Joseph Mabelitini of Mill Valley, riding a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle drifted across the road's center line and sideswiped an oncoming Ford Bronco before being thrown from the motorcycle before 7 p.m. Sunday, according to a CHP report.
The Marin Independent Journal contributed to this story.
Mabelitini, who police reported was under the influence of alcohol, was dead when rescue workers arrived 13 minutes later.
Police reported finding an open bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey at the crash site and a small cooler filled with four beers inside a saddle bag on the motorcycle.
'"At some point, people seem to be getting the message," Neideffer lamented, "and then (the DUI tally) jumps right back up again."
Calif. police arrest 381 in DUI sweep