Authorities step up DUI enforcement ahead of Labor Day

Merced County law enforcement agencies and the California Highway Patrol are stepping up enforcement efforts to aggressively target drunken and drugged drivers as part of a nationwide effort to combat impaired driving through Labor Day weekend.

The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign will pair increased public awareness with high-visibility enforcement on Merced County roads that began over the weekend and continues through Sept. 1, authorities said in a press release.

The Avoid the 11 – Merced County DUI Task Force will be looking for impaired drivers throughout Merced County, with plans for DUI and driver’s license checkpoints, a multiagency strike team, roving DUI saturation patrols, a DUI warrant-probation sweep and a DUI court sting targeting suspended drivers who were ordered by the judge not to drive.

“It’s tragic how many people lose their lives to drunk driving,” said Police Chief Norm Andrade of the Merced Police Department in the release. “If the news reported that more than 10,000 people were killed in a preventable crime spree, the American public would be outraged.”

In 2012, there were 10,322 people killed in drunken-driving crashes in the United States. Over Labor Day weekend that year, 147 lost their lives to a drunken driver, more than a third (38 percent) of all traffic fatalities that weekend, according to the press release.

“Driving drunk is totally inexcusable,” Andrade said in the release. “We’re hoping that Merced County drivers get the message and take some simple steps to prevent a tragedy. There’s always another way home.”

The Avoid the 11 is reminding drivers to plan ahead and designate a sober driver before attending any events where alcohol will be served. A DUI arrest can mean time in jail, loss of your license, and steep financial expenses – with the average DUI potentially costing up to $10,000.

The public is also being reminded to call 911 to report drunken drivers.

Avoid the 11 funding is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Office of Traffic Safety is offering a free mobile app – – aimed at thanking the sober designated driver with perks and free offers at area bars and restaurants.