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St. Patrick's Day warning Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Mar 17 2012 12:00 PM

Law enforcement representatives from agencies around San Diego County gathered today at the Chula Vista Police Department to campaign against drunk driving and underage drinking this holiday weekend.

Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano said the message is simple.

“It’ about saving lives,” he said.

St. Patrick’s Day is the nation’s third deadliest holiday in terms of drunken driving deaths, according to National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

Last year, three people were killed and another 96 were injured in DUI-related crashes in California on St. Patrick’s Day, according to the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.

For the second year in a row, San Diego ranked first in the nation for DUI citations, according to data from Insurance.com.

“Preventing people from drinking and driving keeps the community safe,” Bejarano said.

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said last year the DA’s office prosecuted nearly 10,000 DUI cases across the county with a 98 percent conviction rate.

“We get a lot of business from people who drink and drive,” she said.

Dumanis said she’s noticed two unfortunate trends: impaired drivers with a higher blood alcohol level of .15, which is almost twice the legal limit and a rise in women being cited for drinking and driving.

During St. Patrick’s Day, 40 percent of all traffic fatalities are contributed to legally-intoxicated drivers, which is eight percent higher than that of an average day in the U.S.,  according to National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

District administrator/commander for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Jennifer Hill said dozens of agencies statewide are cracking down on underage drinking and access to alcohol for people under 21.

“Seventy-nine youth were killed last year in California in alcohol-related crashes,” Hill said.

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