Pleasanton accident adds to mounting holiday crashes, injuries

More than 1,600 arrested so far during drunken driving crackdowns across Bay Area

New Year's Eve accidents injured several motorists, left one driver dead and blocked roadways in the Bay Area as law enforcement agencies continued their stepped up enforcement efforts to apprehend drunken drivers.

In Pleasanton, two cars collided at Neal and second streets about 3 p.m. Thursday, injuring one motorist who was taken by ambulance to Kaiser medical center in Walnut Creek. Police, who have not identified the drivers and are still investigating the cause of the accident.

An hour earlier, two northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 101 in San Jose were closed for nearly an hour while firefighters extinguished a blazing vehicle near the De La Cruz Boulevard exit.

A passerby reported seeing a woman pulling a child from the burning vehicle, according to CHP Officer Peter Van Eckhardt, but firefighters later said no one was injured in the fire.

Just minutes later, several miles south of the car fire, a Chevrolet Tracker crashed and flipped multiple times in the southbound lanes of Highway 101 near Yerba Buena Road, according to Van Eckhardt.

He said a woman in that vehicle was either ejected or managed to crawl from the car. She has major injuries. Two men in the car suffered moderate injuries, Van Eckhardt said.

Earlier today, seven people were injured in Oakland after a stolen Lexus crashed into two other cars following a short police pursuit at 62nd Avenue and Foothill Boulevard.

Oakland fire Battalion Chief Edward Kilmartin said the seven in the cars were taken to Oakland Children's Hospital, Eden Medical Center and Highland Hospital.

Wednesday night, a 43-year-old woman was killed in a four-vehicle wreck in Gilroy. The crash was reported at 6:45 p.m. at the intersection of Monterey and Leavesley roads, according to police. Three of the vehicles involved, a Ford Focus, a Chevrolet pickup truck and a Honda, were traveling through the intersection when the crash occurred, police said. The driver of the Ford Focus was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said that 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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Like this comment
Posted by Nosy Neighbors
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 1, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Dummies driving on 2nd St. need to realize that there is a STOP SIGN for them @ Neal. I've seen, almost been in & have averted at least a dozen accidents at this intersection over the past few years. Stop staring at the pretty church & stop you morons!

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