A handful of Bay Area counties today reported provisional DUI arrest numbers for this year’s holiday enforcement period, with some experiencing an increase in arrests and others a decrease when compared to last year.

In Alameda, San Francisco, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties, the number of DUI arrests made dropped within the 17-day holiday maximum enforcement timeframe, which began Dec. 18 and ended Sunday, according to law enforcement officials.

Jan Ford of the Avoid Campaign said the decrease in DUI arrests could indicate that drivers have become more aware of the dangers of drinking and driving.

“This is a tremendous drop this year, which makes us very happy because it sounds to us like people are getting the message about driving sober,” she said.

“We also think the poor economy might have helped us too because people didn’t want to spend the money to go to elaborate dinners out or fancy parties,” where drinking is present, Ford added.

Another possibility for the decrease could be a slightly shorter enforcement period this year when compared to last year, she said. Law enforcement agencies enforce their holiday crackdown for the weekend before Christmas, Christmas weekend and New Year’s weekend, which fall on different dates each year, she said. Last year’s DUI holiday crackdown began five days earlier, Dec. 12.

Contra Costa County sheriff’s spokesman Jimmy Lee said he wasn’t sure why the number of DUI arrests appears to have dropped in Contra Costa County–last year there were 431 arrests, and this year law enforcement officials are expecting about 300 once the final numbers are in–but emphasized the length of each year’s holiday enforcement period.

“It’s hard to compare apples to oranges here,” he said, adding that the bottom line is that people shouldn’t drink and drive.

Alameda County law enforcement agencies arrested 856 alleged drunken drivers, down from last year’s 1,323 DUI arrests, according to Ford.

There appears to have been one fatal DUI-related crash in Alameda County within the holiday enforcement period, a crash Dec. 22 that left three people dead, Ford said.

San Francisco law enforcement agencies reported 95 DUI arrests in the holiday crackdown period this year, a decrease from last year’s 121 arrests. Ford said there were no fatal DUI-related crashes in San Francisco this year or last year.

In San Mateo County, law enforcement agencies arrested 210 alleged drunken drivers versus 271 DUI-related arrests last year, according to Daly City police Sgt. David Mackriss.

He said there have been no fatal DUI-related crashes in San Mateo County within the holiday enforcement period since 2004.

On roads and highways patrolled by the California Highway Patrol throughout the Bay Area, there was no change in the number of DUI-related arrests made this year from last year — 237, according to CHP Sgt. Trent Cross.

He said that statewide the CHP arrested 1,388 alleged drunken drivers, down from last year’s 1,456 DUI arrests.

DUI arrests increased, however, in Sonoma and Santa Clara counties, according to law enforcement officials.

In Santa Clara County, 624 DUI arrests were made. Last year there were 610 in the holiday enforcement period, according to Santa Clara County sheriff’s Sgt. Rick Sung.

One fatal DUI-related crash was reported in San Jose during the holiday crackdown, Sung said. Last year there were two DUI-related fatalities in the holiday enforcement period, he said.

Sonoma County law enforcement officials reported 201 DUI-related arrests this year, a record high for the county since the DUI task force began in Sonoma County eight years ago, according to Petaluma police Sgt. Ken Savano. This year no DUI-related fatal crashes were reported, and last year there were four, he said.

Statistics for several other Bay Area counties were not available today.

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