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Public Safety

North County Cops Target Drunken Driving On State Route 78

Eight North County law enforcement agencies have formed a partnership to cut down on drunken driving on state Route 78.

The agencies have convened a task force campaign called "Avoid the Eight on 78" to reduce drunken driving accidents on the highway.

Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter said the eight refers to the number of law enforcement agencies — from Carlsbad and Oceanside on the coast, and inland to Escondido — that share enforcement duties along Route 78.

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"This is our way to try to get DUI drivers to avoid us," Carter said. "By not drinking and driving, having a designated driver, getting a taxi or a shuttle, so you can avoid having contact with the eight on 78."

Some call Route 78 the"Hops Highway" because of all the craft breweries that have sprung up in Vista and other towns along the freeway. But law enforcement wants to make sure the lure of craft beer does not lead to more DUIs.

Carter said the task force will be finding out where those arrested for DUI bought their alcohol and alerting the establishments involved.

Besides the city police departments and Sheriff's Department, other agencies involved are the California Highway Patrol and the police departments at Palomar College and Cal State San Marcos. They have agreed to collaborate on DUI checkpoints along Route 78.

It's a "force multiplier" model, Carter said, that North County agencies have already found effective in fighting gangs, drugs and car theft. The task force hopes to find the money for a driver awareness campaign.

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"Get as much information out as possible," Carter said, "so that if they do have something to drink and they are thinking about getting behind the wheel, they know that it's not just that city that's going to be enforcing it, it's going to be all eight cities."