Road, water patrols intent on a safe weekend

If you hit the road or the reservoirs this Memorial Day weekend, keep in mind that officers and deputies will be doing the same.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the county will be conducting operations to curb driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Stanislaus County sheriff's deputies will be patrolling the reservoirs to keep swimmers safe in the water.

It promises to be a nice weekend: The rain the Northern San Joaquin Valley had earlier this week should be displaced by a clear sky and 80- degree temperatures, the National Weather Service said.

But the water will be cold, said Stanislaus County sheriff's Sgt. Paul Yotsuya. It's the cold water that can shock some swimmers and make it tough for them to get back to shore.

Memorial Day is the first big holiday for the summer season, so sheriff's officials expect large crowds at Modesto and Woodward reservoirs. Drownings and heat exposure are some of the major hazards that await visitors.

"It's important to wear a life vest," said Yotsuya, who supervises the deputies who patrol the two reservoirs. "Just watch your alcohol intake, and stay hydrated by drinking water."

The California Highway Patrol will put 80 percent of its officers on the road over the three-day weekend, known as a "maximum enforcement period," which ends Monday evening.

Holiday travelers should expect crowded highways and more CHP officers looking for impaired drivers and speeders. CHP officer John Martinez recommended drivers get on the road early.

"Traffic is going to be heavy," Martinez said. "They have to share the road. We want to help everyone arrive safely at their destination, and we need their cooperation."

This year's Memorial Day weekend falls in the middle of the statewide "Click It or Ticket" campaign, which started Monday and ends June 6.

Law enforcement agencies are looking for drivers and passengers who aren't wearing seat belts. Violators will get citations, not warnings.

This year, authorities said, fines and fees have increased from $132 to $142 for first-time adult seat-belt violations. For children under 16, the fine is $445 for a first-time offense.

Stanislaus County law enforcement agencies will team up starting tonight as part of a crackdown on drunken drivers. The enforcement is part of the "Avoid the 12" campaign, which includes all 12 law enforcement agencies in the county.

The enforcement will start with a sobriety checkpoint tonight at an undisclosed location in Turlock.

Saturation patrols

Police in Modesto, Turlock, Ceres and Oakdale will conduct saturation patrols tonight through Sunday of officers looking for people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Stanislaus County sheriff's deputies will be looking for drunken drivers in Patterson and the county's unincorporated areas.

"The Oakdale Police Department has contacted a large amount of intoxicated drivers so far this spring," said Oakdale police officer Ben Savage. "We are looking out for the safety of the other drivers on the road."

There's no excuse for drinking and driving on Memorial Day. The AAA Tipsy Tow Program will give drinking drivers in Northern California, Nevada and Utah a free tow home from 6 p.m. Monday until 6 a.m. Tuesday. Members and nonmembers can call 800-222-4357 for a free tow of up to five miles.

"Just tell the AAA operator, 'I need a Tipsy Tow,' and a truck will be on its way," said AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris. "Service is restricted to a one-way ride for the driver and his or her vehicle to the driver's home."

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at or 578-2394.

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