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1,600 arrested so far in Bay Area crack-down on drunken driving

Report comes as state legislator seeks law making DUI arrest records permanent

More than 1,600 people have been arrested in the Bay Area for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the first 12 days of a regional anti-DUI crackdown.

The regional Avoid campaign, which involves 125 Bay Area law enforcement agencies, has netted about 1,640 arrests through Tuesday, according to campaign spokeswoman Jan Ford.

The latest announcement of arrests during the holiday enforcement period comes at the same time that State Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) proposed legislation that would make these arrests a permanent scar on the driver's record and increase the penalty for repeat offenses.

At a news conference on the steps of the Northern Branch of San Mateo County Superior Court in South San Francisco Wednesday morning, Hill along with San Mateo County District Attorney Jim Fox and law enforcement officials stressed the importance of not drinking and driving.

"It's an ongoing, chronic problem," Hill said. "This is one attempt at making the roads safer."

The increased enforcement efforts for the current Christmas-to-New Year's holidays began Dec. 18 and will continue through Sunday night.

There have been 575 DUI arrests in Alameda County and 442 in Santa Clara County since the campaign began.

Santa Clara County's numbers were down compared to the 479 arrests made during the same time period last year. There was one DUI-related fatality in the county, a 75-year-old woman who was fatally struck by a vehicle Sunday evening.

The 28-year-old driver of the vehicle, Steven Michael Omstead, was arrested for DUI following the incident, according to San Jose police Officer Jermaine Thomas.

There have been 187 arrests in Contra Costa County and 139 in Sonoma County, Ford said.

Law enforcement officials in Sonoma County will be conducting a sobriety and driver's license checkpoint in Santa Rosa this weekend, where five of the county's eight DUI injury collisions have occurred since the campaign began.

Petaluma police will also be deploying a roving DUI patrol on New Year's Eve to search for impaired drivers.

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, 137 drivers have been arrested for DUI in San Mateo County, 65 have been arrested in San Francisco, 38 have been arrested in Marin County, 32 have been arrested in Napa County, and 25 have been arrested in Solano County, according to Ford.

There have also been 78 DUI arrests in Santa Cruz County and 65 in Monterey County, she said.

Responding to the increased arrests and ongoing DUI problem, Assemblyman Jerry Hill and San Mateo County District Attorney Jim Fox want the state to raise the bar on DUI arrest records.

"It's an ongoing, chronic problem," Hill said. "This is one attempt at making the roads safer."

DUI convictions are erased from offender's records after 10 years, according to California Highway Patrol Sgt. Trent Cross.

The new legislation would change that law so a DUI conviction would remain on offender's records forever.

The bill would also authorize the court to permanently revoke the driver's license of a person previously convicted of three or more DUI offenses.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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