SALINAS, Calif. -

Drunk and drugged driving remains the number one killer on our roadways, with 802 DUI deaths and nearly 24,000 Alcohol Involved Injuries reported statewide.

The “Avoid the 20” DUI Task Force will be combating this deadly problem through DUI enforcement efforts in Monterey and San Benito Counties. The Salinas Police Department will be administering a recent $200,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety for both counties.

“This is the 15th straight year we have received this grant,” said Traffic Sergeant Gerry Ross. “There is no doubt the grant has saved many lives and prevented hundreds of serious injuries. We plan on continuing to intensify DUI enforcement efforts until the number of deaths is zero.”

This past Labor Day weekend officers expected to arrest up to 140 DUI suspects over 18 days in Monterey and San Benito Counties. The program proved successful as officers headed into the Labor Day weekend at 114 arrests for serious crime, compared with 78 at the same time in last year’s campaign.

The “Avoid the 20” DUI Task Force is named to send the message that if you don't drink or use drugs and drive, you will avoid getting arrested by any of the 20 participating law enforcement agencies in the county. The grant activities will specifically target those who get behind the wheel after drinking too much or using drugs that impair driving. Officers from law enforcement agencies across the county will jointly staff DUI/Driver License Checkpoints and roving DUI saturation patrols.

Additionally, funding will target the ‘worst of the worst' repeat DUI offenders with Warrant/Probation Sweeps and Court Sting Enforcement Operations focusing on DUI offenders with suspend licenses who drive from court hearings after being ordered not to drive by a judge.

“California's roadways are still among the safest in the nation,” said OTS Director Rhonda Craft. “But to meet future mobility, safety, and sustainability objectives, we must create safer roadways for all users. The “Avoid the 20” DUI Task Force will be using these and other resources to reach the vision we all share – Toward zero deaths, every 1 counts.”

Salinas police traffic Sgt. Gerard Ross commented about this past Labor Day weekend 'Avoid the 20' operation,, “We hoped that the DUI arrest count over the Labor Day weekend would be in the two digits.” In the last two years, the arrest total duplicated itself at 100.

Jurisdictions have been conducting sobriety checkpoints, in-city saturation patrols and maximum enforcement by the CHP’s three area commands, Hollister-Gilroy, Monterey and King City.

Motorists can expect to see special DUI campaigns during the winter and summer holiday periods as well as on Halloween, Super Bowl Sunday, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo and during local special events with identified DUI Problems.

“The good news is that a DUI arrest is completely preventable, just use the good old designated sober driver method,” says Ross, “the bad news is that an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could cost as much as $10,000 when you add up all the various costs. Never mind that your insurance rates will go through the roof, if the insurance company doesn’t cancel your policy outright.”

The effort is part of a national NHTSA campaign with the title “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.