DUI checkpoint Saturday in Merced

A drunken-driving checkpoint is scheduled for tonight in Merced.

The checkpoint is part of the Avoid the 11 DUI Task Force’s 20-day holiday crackdown on drunken drivers, which started Dec. 13.

“We’ll either have it set up on 16th Street or G Street,” Merced police Sgt. Jay Struble said Friday. “Those are hot spots for DUIs, but we want it somewhere that won’t bottleneck traffic too badly and will maintain traffic safety.”

The checkpoint will run from 7 p.m. today through 3 a.m. Sunday, police said.

The task force will aggressively target drunken drivers this holiday season with plans for six DUI checkpoints, 17 local roving DUI saturation patrols, and a DUI warrant and probation sweep.

The enforcement is funded through a grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety, police said.

Nationally, from 2007 to 2011, 4,169 people were killed in December in crashes that involved intoxicated drivers. In California during that same period, 505 were killed and thousands seriously injured.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32,367 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic accidents across the nation in 2011, with 31 percent of them in drunken-driving-related crashes. In the same period Californians recorded 2,835 deaths, of which 774 were in DUI crashes.

Drunken drivers often face jail time, the loss of their driver’s licenses, higher insurance rates and dozens of other unanticipated expenses ranging from attorney fees, court costs, car towing and repairs to lost wages due to time off from work. Even worse, a drunken driver can cause a traffic crash that claims someone’s life, or their own, police said.