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Driving drunk just got riskier in Lincoln

By: Patty McAlpin, Reporter
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Mothers Against Drunk Driving Candlelight Vigil

When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8

Where: Howe Avenue Park Community Center

2201 Cottage Way,

Sacramento, CA

Local law enforcement agencies will increase their presence on the streets to combat drunk driving as the holiday season begins.

Nationally, 10,225 people died in 2010 in highway crashes involving drivers or motorcycle operations with blood alcohol concentrations of .08 or higher, according to statistics provided by the Placer County Probation Department..

In California, the number killed was 791. In Placer County, 14 killed were injured and 199 injured in such crashes, according to the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

Gabriel Rodriguez, 53, of Live Oak, died Nov. 14, 2012 in a collision on Sierra College Boulevard at Caperton Court in the Penryn area. Drunk driving is the suspected cause, according to Officer Dave Martinez of the California Highway Patrol. The driver, Andrey Yushchuk, 43, of Lincoln, was arrested Nov. 14 at Sutter Roseville Hospital on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. 

So far this year, Lincoln Police Department arrested 74 people on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Three individuals were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in the past four weeks, according to the Lincoln Police Log in the Lincoln News Messenger.

In 2009, Lincoln Police Department arrested 142 people on suspicion of driving under the influence, in 2010, 96; and 2011, 106.

Asked by the News Messenger if drunk driving is a problem in Lincoln, Lincoln Interim Police Chief Paul Shelgren did not directly answer the question.

“Lincoln is no different than anywhere else,” Shelgren said.

The joint efforts of law enforcement provide awareness and help educate the public, according to Shelgren.

“The (Placer County) probation department makes those on probation adhere to the terms of probation,” Shelgren said. “Probationers can be arrested on the spot, taken back to jail and kept off the streets.”

Shelgren said Lincoln Police Department conducts random checks, but the Probation Department checks on driving under the influence repeat offenders full time.

“If we continuously see them, individuals on probation for driving under the influence of alcohol will think twice before taking a sip of beer or wine,” Chief Probation Officer Marshall Hopper said.

Placer County was awarded a $68,000 grant by the California Office of Traffic Safety recently. The annual grant started in 2009. This year’s grant began Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2013.

The grant money helps pay for a minimum of six driving under the influence warrant operations, 650 unannounced visits, preparation of driving under the influence risk assessments for superior court and driving under the influence checkpoints.

Placer County Probation Department has two officers handling probation for 141 individuals on probation for felony driving under the influence or multiple misdemeanor driving under the influence convictions. One officer supervises 69 probationers living in Lincoln, Sheridan, Roseville, Rocklin and part of Auburn. The other officer’s caseload includes individuals living in Auburn, Colfax, Alta and Meadow Vista.

Hopper said the grant increases resources to focus on high-risk driving under the influence offenders in the community.

In 2011, the average case load included 151 individuals. Officers had 1,407 office contacts with those individuals, conducted 677 probation searches and administered 1,859 alcohol and drug tests.

“We do random checks so they never know when we are coming,” Hopper said.

Hopper said the intensive probation supervision of high-risk felony and repeat driving under the influence offenders’ grant is aimed at reducing the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol and other drug-related collisions in Placer County.

The grant ultimately provides for a safer community, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Affiliate Executive Director Brenda Frachiseur said.

“The additional funding provided to the Placer County Probation Department will allow the probation officers the necessary resources to keep high risk DUI offenders off the road,” Frachiseur said. “The probation officers will be able to ensure the offenders are adhering to the terms of their probation and not continuing to engage in dangerous behaviors.” 

Placer County uses funding from the “Avoid the 7” grant to conduct driving under the influence checkpoints and saturation patrols.

The funding cycle begins Oct. 1 each year. The county was awarded $80,000 this year to conduct four checkpoints, eight saturation patrols and educate the public about the danger of drinking and driving.

The Avoid the 7 DUI Task Force member agencies include Auburn Police Department, Lincoln Police Department, California Highway Patrol, California State Parks, Placer County Sheriff’s Department, Rocklin Police Department and Roseville Police Department.

Auburn Police Chief John Ruffcorn said his department has taken over the duties of administering the grant for the seven member agencies from Lincoln Police Department because Lincoln has decreased staffing.

Shelgren said Lincoln Police administered the grant for the past three years.

The agencies are scheduled to meet Dec. 3 to finalize plans for the year’s worth of activities. The first checkpoint to kick off the campaign will take place the weekend before Christmas in Auburn.

“My philosophy is I’d rather prevent someone from being hurt or killed in the first place,” Ruffcorn said. “That’s why the driving under the influence grant is so important. If we can prevent a crash, we can possibly save a life. If we can educate someone and prevent the person from getting behind the wheel of a car under the influence, we’ve done our job even better.”