This Labor Day weekend there will be families and friends celebrating the end of summer in Santa Monica and Venice, two of the most desirable cities in California. Tourist and folks from the local areas are making their way to spend their end of summer walking the Third Street Promenade, play in the sand and eating delicious funnel cakes on the Santa Monica Pier.

Unfortunately, this weekend can be a dangerous time to be on the roads due to drunken drivers. Increased incidents of impaired driving, leading to serious injury crashes. The high visibility enforcement campaign- “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is underway this weekend.

Due to the hospitality-oriented beach community, there is a high volume of bars, restaurants, and liquor stores, which can increase alcohol, and other related problems.

According to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, there are 365 restaurants and bars between Santa Monica and Venice that have a license to sell alcohol.

On Aug. 29, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that 35,092 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2015. Drunk driving was involved in 10,265 traffic fatalities. Despite a drop in the percentage of traffic fatalities caused by drunk driving, the NHTSA data shows that much more work must be done to protect our nation’s roadways.

Saul Rodriguez, Public Information Officer for the Santa Monica Police Department provided the Daily Press with numbers of recent arrest within Santa Monica. Below are the numbers related to DUI type arrest in the City of Santa Monica, information includes all arrests made by SMPD and outside agencies such as California Highway Patrol, all of which were booked at SMPD Jail.

In 2015, 166 people were arrested for DUI, 10 were arrested for DUI involving injury in a traffic collision and three for underage drinking a total of 179 people. So far this year, 127 people have been arrested for DUI, three arrested for DUI involving injury traffic collision, and four for underage drinking and driving, a total of 134 people in the City of Santa Monica.

Private organizations and nonprofits are also working to prevent drunk driving.

The Entertainment Industry’s Voice for Road Safety, otherwise known as Recording Artists, Actors and Athletes Against Drunk Driving (RADD), has successfully partnered with KROQ’s Weenie Roast, LA Crawl, and Jam In The Van, among others on drunk driving prevention.

Jam In The Van is a solar powered mobile recording studio that tapes sessions with top and emerging talent. They started in the backyard of co-founder Jake Cotler, a Venice resident who is now traveling with the van all over the United States.

He said, “I have been living in Venice for around 12 years now and through out the years I have seen everything from multiple bars, drunk people riding bikes to drunk driving. It can definitely get scary.”

Jake saw many classmates leave a party, drive home and lose their lives. He said, “This issue definitely hits home which is why I am happy to partner with RADD and promote the message.”

Both are dedicated to getting the message of planning ahead of time with a designated driver; ride share, cab or alternate use of public transportation because both say drinking and driving is not an option.

Erin Meluso the president of RADD said, “It all started with a group of teenagers who were killed due to drunk driving during prom seasons, that’s when I knew someone had to do something because it is ultimately preventable.”

Now in its 30th year of existence, Meluso is happy to say, “Drunk driving has dramatically dropped, especially this past decade. Although the past couple of years we have plateaued. The primary purpose of the program is ‘Friends don’t let friends drive drunk…do you?’ so the campaign is to encourage young adults from ages 18-34 to utilize designated non-drinking drivers or using alternate ways of transportation, such as Uber or Lyft.”

RADD is looking toward partnering with restaurants or bars in the Santa Monica area to promote the practices of responsible beverage service, and provide free non-alcoholic beverages or some sort of free item for the designated driver.

Meluso said, “We have not gotten a set in stone answer but we do get a grant on October 1, 2016 and plan on going to Santa Monica College and see if they will partner with us along with the venues in the area.”

According to NHSTA, during the 2014 Labor Day holiday weekend (from Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. through Sep. 2, at 5:59 a.m.), 40 percent of the fatalities in traffic crashes involved drunk drivers, which was the highest percentage between 2010 to 2014.

As the summer winds to an end, remember that there’s no excuse for drunk or impaired driving.

Lt. Rodriguez said, “Drunk driving has and always will be an important issue. SMPD will be looking for objective signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment and verify that motorist are in possession of a valid drivers license. The SMPD would like to remind everyone to call 911 to report drunk drivers.”

By Marina Andalon

marina@www.smdp.com