Public Safety

MADD Joins Forces With Local Law Enforcement to Prevent Drunk Driving

On New Year’s Day 2010, Michele Eastland was awakened by a phone call from a relative with crushing news. Her 21-year-old cousin Elaina Ortiz and her unborn child had been killed by a drunk driver who slammed into her disabled vehicle on the shoulder of Interstate 805.

Eastland spoke of her family’s devastation at the MADD San Diego Kick Off to the holiday season’s anti-drunk driving efforts on Wednesday. She described how her family had to prepare for Elaina’s viewing at the funeral home. Elaina’s tiny baby Romeo had been placed in the tray table next to her and the family took turns holding and kissing the baby before finally placing him in his mother’s arms.

Nina Walker, a National MADD board member who lost her own daughter to a drunk driver, said together with law enforcement, the state must remain committed to preventing drunk driving so these kinds of tragedies don’t continue.

Local law enforcement turned out in support of the campaign Wednesday to discuss upcoming efforts to keep the roads safe from intoxicated drivers.

Sheriff’s deputies accepted a $600,000 grant for this fiscal year that will fund 19 drunk-driving checkpoints, 19 warrant sweeps of DUI offenders and 111 patrols in which law enforcement “saturates” a problem area, said Sheriff William Gore. Deputies also plan to work with the San Diego Police Department to conduct even more “saturation” patrols as needed.

“During the holidays, we plan to redouble our efforts. Every weekend starting Thanksgiving Day weekend through New Year’s Day, we will have high visibility patrols and seven checkpoints are planned,” said Gore. “Together we’re fighting this in a united fashion in all of San Diego County.”

Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins discussed his department’s year-round commitment to protect the community from repeat drunk drivers through intensive supervision that includes ensuring offenders find treatment, monitoring their progress, and conducting random alcohol and drug testing and unannounced searches at the offender’s home or workplace.

“Our goal is to make sure the DUI offenders we supervise do not repeat their dangerous behaviors,” Jenkins said. “Our strategies have been successful. During the last fiscal year, none of the DUI offenders we supervise was involved in an alcohol-related accident that led to death or injuries.”

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said she wanted to make sure people knew that “tipsy” equaled driving under the influence of alcohol. She also warned that with all the extra law enforcement efforts out there during the holidays, people would be caught.

“Our DUI conviction rate for the last two years is 98 percent. So, if you’re thinking about doing it, don’t,” Dumanis said. “As the holiday season begins, please have a designated driver. Don’t take the chance.”

Walker urged San Diegans to join in MADD’s holiday campaign “Tie One On For Safety,” in which people pledge not to drink and drive by tying a red ribbon to their vehicles. By doing so, motorists also support law enforcement crackdown efforts. The ribbons are available for free at participating Northgate Gonzalez markets and various car dealerships.

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact