~In Memoriam of Wendy and Kimberly Sands~.............

Drunken driving targeted

HOLIDAYS: The two-county law enforcement program combines prevention, education and arrests.

01:21 AM PST on Tuesday, December 2, 2003

By IMRAN GHORI / The Press-Enterprise

SAN BERNARDINO - Inland law enforcement officials offered a stark reminder of the consequences of drinking and driving Monday morning, displaying the twisted remains of a car in which a 26-year-old Hesperia woman and her 7-year-old daughter were killed.

For Sherry Hampton Sams, the mother of Wendy Sands and grandmother of Kimberly Sands, it was the second time since the crash that she had seen the blue Ford Escort in which they were killed in June 2000. The man convicted of killing them was speeding in his truck. He had had three prior convictions for driving under the influence.

"If one person sees this and it stops them from drinking and driving, it's worth it," Sams said, referring to the hurt of seeing the wreckage again.

Law enforcement officials from Riverside and San Bernardino counties were hoping to get that message out to residents as they kicked off Operation Safe Holiday, a monthlong campaign to combat drinking and driving, at a news conference at the steps of San Bernardino City Hall.

The program, combining prevention, education and enforcement, was started four years ago by the San Bernardino Police Department and now includes nine agencies from both counties, including both sheriff's departments and the California Highway Patrol.

Last year, 175 people were arrested, 380 people were cited, and 153 cars impounded as part of the holiday program.

In 2001, the most recent statistics provided by police, 171 people were killed and 3,270 injured in alcohol- or drug-related crashes in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

As part of the program, police plan to conduct traffic safety checkpoints and provide extra patrols around popular shopping districts to look for drunken drivers. District Attorney Mike Ramos said his office planned to prosecute such cases vigorously.

Officials also plan to make resources available to those who choose to drink so that they don't get behind the wheel. Local cab companies are offering free rides and tow truck companies free or low-cost tows. Posters with phone numbers for participating companies will be posted at bars and restaurants.

Participating restaurants and bars also are providing free soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages to designated drivers.

San Bernardino police Sgt. Scott Paterson, who helped start the program, lost his 18-year-old daughter in a fatal drunken-driving crash three years ago.

"We decided the holiday time was a time we could make a difference somewhere," he said.

Reach Imran Ghori at (909) 806-3061



   

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