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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Deputies Plan Checkpoints to Crack Down on Drunk Drivers


PALMDALE — Hoping to discourage drunk driving during the holiday season, sheriff's deputies will set up sobriety checkpoints tonight in Palmdale and Lancaster.

Deputies discussed their plans for the crackdown during a news briefing Thursday in Palmdale, which has had a sharp increase in fatal traffic accidents this year. Many of those accidents involved intoxicated drivers.

Local officials would not say where today's checkpoints will be located, hoping residents will think twice about drinking and driving anywhere in the Antelope Valley.

"I want them to focus on safety throughout the holiday season," Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said. "When people see the sobriety checkpoints, they know the sheriff's deputies are out there."

Terry Stubbings, the city's community relations officer, urged drivers to be extra cautious during the holiday season.

"We want to remind people to drive defensively because there are other people on the road who have been drinking," she said. "We want people to be following posted speed limits and driving according to road and weather conditions."

In Palmdale, 18 people have died in 17 traffic accidents so far this year, compared with eight fatalities in 1993, deputies said.

In neighboring Lancaster, 10 people have died in nine traffic accidents so far this year, slightly below last year's figure, deputies said.

On the Antelope Valley Freeway and in the county areas outside the two cities, 23 people have died in 21 collisions, slightly below last year's figure, CHP Officer Miguel Siordia said.

Of the fatal accidents in Palmdale this year, seven involved drivers who were impaired by alcohol or drugs, said Sheriff's Deputy Mike Rice. Also, seven of the people killed in Palmdale were not wearing seat belts.

"In most of those cases, (wearing) seat belts would have likely prevented death," said Rice, a traffic investigator.

Because of the rise in traffic deaths, deputies assigned to traffic enforcement in Palmdale have been issuing significantly more tickets in recent months instead of letting drivers off with a warning, Rice said.

Drunk-driving arrests are up 30% over 1993, and tickets for failing to wear a seat belt are up 70%, he said.

Deputies hope to make more drunk-driving arrests at the sobriety checkpoints, which will operate from 8 a.m. today until about 2 a.m. Saturday.

Most drivers will be stopped for 30 seconds or less, but if a deputy suspects intoxication, the driver will be asked to pull over for a field sobriety test.

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