St. Patrick's Day is on a Thursday this year so beware of increased police patrol and the possibility of DUI Checkpoints through the weekend in Orange County and across the state. In 2010, St. Patrick's Day fell on a Wednesday, but on the weekend following the holiday, Newport Beach, San Clemente, Huntington Beach and Fullerton police departments conducted checkpoints. The California Office of Traffic Safety in conjunction with the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration provides over $56 million across this state to enforce DUI laws. Sixteen Orange County cities, second only to Los Angeles, have obtained grants. "In these tough economic times California's traffic safety community is not pulling back. For federal fiscal year 2009, OTS (California's Office of Traffic Safety) awarded $82 million in grants to 203 agencies for programs targeting impaired driving, roadway safety, seat belt and child safety seat usage, emergency medical services, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and police traffic services," stated the Secretary of California, Dale Bonner. The OTS has characterized the "Top 50 DUI Cities" in California as those 50 cities that have the highest number of alcohol related fatalities and injuries. The Orange County cities included on this list are: Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Orange, Newport Beach, and Santa Ana. Based on OTS statistics, there were a total of 1029 DUI checkpoints in these 50 cities in 2010. 1,336,738 vehicles traveled through these checkpoints with 783,381 drivers screened, 10,936 drivers performed field sobriety tests (the roadside coordination tests) and 4,054 DUI arrests were made. This calculates to a 3 hundredth of a percent arrest rate based on the number of vehicles entering the checkpoint verses the number of DUI arrests. Based on these checkpoint numbers, you may be inclined to believe that DUI arrests are on the decline, but the total number of DUI arrests is far different from the checkpoint numbers. Even when there are not any checkpoints, police departments have roving DUI teams which will look for any traffic infraction or vehicle equipment violation, especially in the evening hours or during holidays and sporting events, in order to lawfully stop vehicles and check for alcohol consumption. The expired registration tag that you've been driving with for a couple of months will never cause you any issues when you're driving to work in the morning, but coming home from dinner at 10 pm at night and that may become an issue. In 2005, there were 180,288 DUI arrests in California. In 2006, there were 197,248, in 2007, arrests were at 203, 866, and in 2008, 214,811 arrests were made. In 2009, the number dipped a little to 208,531 DUI arrests and we're still waiting for the numbers for 2010. Is it the more money put into the enforcement, the more arrests; or will the trend show a decline, because of the education and publicity DUI arrests and accidents receive? I don't know. It still seems like bars and restaurants still have parking lots. These lots are full at night and empty in the early morning when I pick-up my car. What's the answer? The OTS Annual Performance Report states that, "in 2011, OTS again identified and targeted California's "top 50 DUI cities" and funded these cities to conduct additional DUI checkpoints. As a result, the 'top 50 cities" plan to conduct 598 DUI checkpoints in 2011."(http://www.ots.ca.gov/Media\_and\_Research/Publications\_and\_Reports/hsp10/2010%20APR.pdf) Costa Mesa is increasing their checkpoints from the 12 they had in 2010 to 20 in 2011. That's almost twice per month. Santa Ana conducted 22 in 2010 and has funding for 22 in 2011. Huntington Beach and Newport Beach are also keeping the same numbers of 8 and 6 checkpoints, respectively, for the years 2010 and 2011. Bottom line, if you choose to drive after drinking you may end up spending thousands of dollars when a cab ride or a call to a friend will save money and time. Yes, there are innocent people arrested (in fact the OTS report gives a 79% conviction rate which means that 21% are not convicted of the DUI), but when in doubt, put away the keys.