Updated Oct. 31, 11:37 a.m.–
Citrus Heights police announced plans on Thursday to deploy additional DUI officers on city streets this weekend, calling Halloween “one of the most deadly nights” for drunk or drugged driving accidents across the nation.
While Citrus Heights had zero DUI-related deaths last year, 2015 has seen five fatalities on the road so far – at least three of which involved alcohol as a “contributing factor,” according to police Lt. David Gutierrez. Most of the roadway deaths also involved pedestrians at night — and with the promise of heightened pedestrian traffic and drinking on Halloween night, police are preparing accordingly.
“If you want to stay safe this Halloween, and you’ve been drinking, make a plan to get home without driving,” Lt. Jason Russo said in a written press statement this week, recommending options like Uber or a designated sober driver. But police also cautioned about drinking-while-walking.
“Most people understand the dangers and risks of drinking and driving,” Lt. Gutierrez told The Sentinel in an email, Friday. “We’re urging the public to also consider the dangers of drinking and walking.”
Gutierrez said the majority of pedestrians who were killed or seriously injured on Citrus Heights streets this year were over the legal blood-alcohol content limit and urged pedestrians to not attempt walking on city streets and sidewalks while intoxicated. He also said wearing bright, reflective clothing at night is helpful and strongly advised pedestrians to utilize crosswalks or cross at intersections — something he said several of the pedestrians hit this year didn’t do.
[From September: Pedestrian hit on Auburn Blvd; police seek witnesses]
Police also cited statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which previously reported pedestrian fatalities around the country doubled on Halloween in 2012, compared to the daily average that year. Overall, the traffic safety agency found nearly half the vehicle-related fatalities on Halloween night between 2009 and 2013 involved a drunk driver.
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Lt. Gutierrez said over the Halloween weekend, Citrus Heights police will be partnering with regional law enforcement to deploy officers designated for “DUI saturation patrol,” a term referring to units that specifically “hunt” for vehicles or persons showing signs of alcohol and-or drug impairment.
The local police department conducts at least a half-dozen highly visible anti-DUI operations each year, with funding from an NHTSA grant. Earlier this year, a Memorial Day weekend DUI crackdown resulted in 11 arrests, according to police.