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Arrests for drunken driving up

By Yomi S. Wronge
Mercury News

Timing and opportunity helped California Highway Patrol officers across the state nab nearly twice as many drunken drivers over the holiday weekend as they did the year before.

CHP officers arrested 1,092 suspected drunken drivers between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Monday, compared with 622 drivers in 2004 during the same period.

Are more drinkers getting behind the wheel? Possibly. But CHP Sgt. Wayne Ziese attributes the numbers to good police work.

``In reality, it's sometimes as simple as just falling in at the right time to get an impaired driver off the roadway,'' Ziese said.

And they'll be fully staffed for the upcoming New Year's weekend.

Although arrests are up statewide, Bay Area numbers so far are running behind last year's. The holiday crackdown on drunken drivers, which began Dec. 16 and will run through the New Year, has resulted in 1,540 people arrested throughout nine Bay Area counties.

There were 1,607 DUI arrests for the same period in 2004.

There have been 40 alcohol-related collisions in the Bay Area and one death directly attributed to an impaired driver. An intoxicated driver traveling on Interstate 80 in Fairfield was speeding Wednesday and lost control of his vehicle on a turn, Ziese said.

The previous year, 42 injury accidents were reported and four people lost their lives in three fatal crashes in the Bay Area during the same period during the holidays.

Statewide, traffic deaths over the holiday weekend outnumbered last year's totals. Twenty-seven people died in car accidents this year throughout California, compared with 26 fatalities during the same stretch in 2004.

Although alcohol was a problem, rain and bad driving created the most headaches for law enforcement this weekend.

``Speed, tailgating and distractions'' are the biggest factors in weather-related accidents, Ziese said.

People drive too fast, follow too close and generally don't pay attention to the road. Also, some drivers simply forget to give their car a safety tuneup, which includes replacing old windshield wipers, checking tire tread and tire pressure.

Ignoring those tasks, Ziese said, could make ``you and your car a pretty dangerous piece of machinery moving down the road.''

San Jose Mercury News (http://www.mercurynews.com/)

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