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December 23, 2009 > Avoid the 13 saves drivers' and pedestrians' lives

Avoid the 13 saves drivers' and pedestrians' lives

By Dustin Findley
Photos By Dustin Findley

"Avoid the 13" is a campaign to prevent driving under the influence of alcohol and preserve the lives of motorists and pedestrians. The campaign kicked off at a media event on December 18 and continues until January 2. The launch featured speakers and a drunk-driving demonstration.

Milpitas Chief of Police and President of the Santa Clara County Police Chiefs' Association Dennis Graham explained "Avoid the 13" refers to the Santa Clara law enforcement agencies collaborate during peak holiday periods to form a regional task force. The campaign's message is "don't drink and drive so you can avoid the 13 law enforcement agencies and avoid being arrested."

"Wearing your seatbelt is the best defense against drunk drivers," Graham explained.

Drunk-driving has many consequences for both the drivers and the victims. Sara Cole survived being struck by a vehicle in possession of a drunk driver in 2007. She was putting a bicycle into the back of her SUV, after a Little League game in which her sons had played, and a vehicle slammed into her. Medical emergency personnel and local law enforcement responded quickly to give her the attention she needed and apprehend the culprit.

"I'm fortunate to be alive today because most people don't survive when it's a car versus pedestrian situation," Cole said.

Cole spent months in hospital undergoing countless surgeries, physical rehabilitation and re-learning how to walk. She has permanent nerve damage resulting in limited function in her legs.

Victims of drivers, who choose to drink and drive, sustain life-changing injuries, if they survive. Cole's advice for anyone who wishes to drink is to make plans, whilst sober, to return home without driving.

The Sheriff's Department demonstrated the effects of drinking and driving, including negotiating a cone-course and being pulled over. Two volunteers began drinking at 9 a.m. the day of the campaign's launch. One volunteer had a blood-alcohol level of 0.122 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood. The legal limit is 0.08 milligrams.

"If you travel to a party or join a group that is drinking, please always designate at least one person not to consume any alcohol and to drive people home,"" requested Chief Graham.

"We also ask our citizens to help us catch drunk drivers by reporting any suspected drunk-driving activities," he added. "The public can make a difference."

Signs of drunk driving include swerving or weaving in the roadway, aggressive driving such as tailgating, sudden stops and driving noticeably slower than the flow of traffic. If people see such behavior or other signs of erratic driving, they should call 911 as soon as it is safe to do so and give the location of the suspected drunk driver, the direction of travel, vehicle description and license plate number.

"If anyone suspects a driver of being drunk, they should not hesitate to call 911. If the suspect is sober, the police will make sure of that and allow them to proceed. If they're drunk, then you just helped us save a life," Chief Graham concluded.

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