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CHP OUT IN FORCE FOR LONG WEEKEND

The long Labor Day holiday may mean a last hurrah for students and

summer-lovers, but for law enforcement, it's time to gear up for an

often-bloody weekend of accidents and drunken drivers.

In Sonoma County and statewide, California Highway Patrol officers are

planning to beef up their presence on the roadways, looking for drinking

drivers, speeders and reckless motorists.

''This is historically one of the two most heavily traveled holidays in

California,'' said CHP Officer Wayne Ziese. ''It's the last hurrah of

summer.''

Statewide in 1995, 40 people died in accidents over the threeday weekend

and 38 died in 1994. In Sonoma County last year, there were no fatal accidents

over the long weekend.

But 1995 was an extremely bloody year for motorists in Sonoma County.

About 30 people died in alcoholrelated crashes last year, about double the

number of alcohol- or drug-related car crash deaths from the year before. CHP

officers handled 24 alcohol- or drugrelated traffic deaths and about half of

Santa Rosa's 12 fatalities involved drivers using alcohol or drugs.

Ziese said that so far this year in Sonoma County six people have been

killed by drunken drivers on roadways patrolled by state officers.

In Santa Rosa, so far this year, of four fatal accidents, only one involved

a drunken driver, said Sgt. Tom Swearingen.

Accidents on state highways throughout California to date this year are

occurring at about the same rate as in 1995, despite the speed limit being

raised to 65 mph on most interstate roadways.

CHP officers statewide also have written 23 percent fewer speeding tickets,

between January and July this year compared to the same period in 1995, said

Ziese.

''Obviously folks who used to drive 65 are still driving 65. Now they're

not stopped because they're in compliance,'' Ziese said.

Ziese warned drivers to expect delays this weekend as traffic is expected

to be heavy pretty much everywhere.

In Santa Rosa, police have just increased their weekend night traffic

patrol from two to four officers specifically looking for drunken drivers.

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