With the festivities of a holiday weekend approaching, Santa Clara County law enforcement officials are warning drivers that they'll be out in force this weekend looking for those who celebrate Cinco de Mayo with alcohol and then got behind the wheel.
The Avoid the 13 campaign -- which includes law enforcement agencies throughout Santa Clara County -- is rolled out for various holidays that are often accompanied by parties, barbecues and festivals that involve drinking. It was in effect for St. Patrick's Day and will be back for Memorial Day at the end of the month.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said in a statement that Cinco de Mayo has "unfortunately become one of the most dangerous days of the year, all because of drunken driving."
"Some people have this misconception that they can drink a little and drive safely, but that's just not true," she said.
Focusing on Friday night and Saturday, DUI saturation patrols will be deployed in Cupertino, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Morgan Hill, San Jose, Santa Clara, Saratoga and Sunnyvale. In addition, routine patrol officers will be advised to keep an especially wary eye out for potentially drunk drivers.
The county effort is just part of a statewide crackdown funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to the Office of Traffic Safety, the number of people killed in drunken driving crashes on Cinco de Mayo more than doubled statewide between 2011 and 2012.
The office recommended that revelers assign a sober driver before festivities begin -- even buying the designated driver's food and nonalcoholic drinks. And if necessary, call a friend or taxi or take public transportation when it's time to go home.
Other suggestions include taking keys from impaired people who intend to drive while helping them find another ride, and reporting suspected drunk drivers to 911 -- lest they become part of another holiday tragedy.
"We just want everyone to have a safe and happy Cinco de Mayo by taking a few minutes ahead of time to get a plan together," said Smith. "No one ever plans to drive drunk, they just don't have a different plan so they make a terrible decision."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.