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Collisions spike on Independence Day
Law enforcement plans maximum enforcement
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The Fourth of July is a day known for backyard barbecues, parades and stunning pyrotechnic displays. Unfortunately, it is also becoming a deadly day to be on the road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 392 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes during the Fourth of July holiday period from July 2 to July 6 in 2010. Of those fatalities, 39 percent were in crashes which involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.

In California, there were 34 people killed in traffic collisions between July 3 and July 4, 2011, according to the California Highway Patrol. This was an increase from the 23 lives lost in 2010 in California.

“It is alarming to know that more than 80 percent of the people who were killed in vehicle collisions over the Independence Day holiday last year may have survived had they taken the time to buckle up,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.

In addition to spreading the word about seat belt use and obeying speed limits, local and state law enforcement are planning a maximum enforcement effort against impaired driving on the Fourth of July.

“The Fourth of July is one of the deadliest holidays due to an increase in impaired-driving fatalities,” said Turlock Police Sgt. Neil Cervenka. “Too many people die behind the wheel each year due to those who choose to drive after drinking, so our officers will be out in full force this Fourth of July showing zero tolerance for impaired drivers.”

The CHP also is planning a maximum enforcement period for the holiday. Last year, over the Independence Day weekend, CHP officers made 1,562 arrests for driving under the influence.

Stanislaus County’s Avoid the 12 DUI Task Force will be deploying saturation patrols tonight and through the weekend.

“The amount of alcohol that one can consume during a day-long party or celebration can drastically impair the motor skills needed to drive safely,” Cervenka said. “Add the fact that many others may be out driving impaired and that visual skills also decrease at night, and you have a recipe for disaster.” 

The campaign to get suspected drunken drivers off the road included a DUI checkpoint in Turlock on Friday that resulted in the arrest of three suspected drunk drivers.

The checkpoint was set up at Geer Road and W. Monte Vista Avenue.

The first arrest of the night happened when an officer was en route to assist in setting up the checkpoint, said Turlock Police Sgt. Stephen Webb.

Turlock Officer Austin Wilson noticed a car weaving between two lanes on W. Hawkeye Avenue and then make a wide turn onto Geer Road and accelerate up to 65 mph, Webb said.

Wilson attempted to pull the car over, but the driver made a U-turn onto Starr Avenue and accelerated the vehicle. The driver lost control of the car and hit a curb, causing one tire to blow out and the rim to bend.

Unaware of the damage to the vehicle, the driver, identified as Atour Younenalbaji, 50, of Turlock, attempted to drive away and even waved to the officer, Webb said. However, the damage was too extensive and Younenalbaji was forced to stop. He was booked into the Stanislaus County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence and evading arrest.

Over 600 vehicles passed through the checkpoint, which resulted in two more drunk drivers and three suspended/unlicensed drivers being arrested, Webb said. The drunk drivers were booked into Stanislaus County Jail and the suspended/unlicensed drivers were released on citations. 

A checkpoint unit had stopped a vehicle for suspicion of DUI, when Stacy Coslow, 22, of Turlock, got out of another car and approached the suspected DUI driver. Coslow, who had seven warrants for her arrest, charged into the middle of the traffic stop and started yelling at the driver, Webb said. Coslow was arrested and booked at the Stanislaus Public Safety Center.  The driver that was stopped was determined to not be under the influence.

“Some very dangerous drivers were stopped and arrested,” Cervenka said. “Without the grant from the Office of Traffic Safety to fund these operations, these dangerous drivers would’ve been left on the streets jeopardizing countless lives.”