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Arrests for DUI up in '08
Police: Traffic deaths down

LAWRENCEVILLE - Data released this week suggests motorists were relatively safer last year in Gwinnett, and drunk drivers were more likely to be caught.

Gwinnett police have declared 2008 a banner year for traffic enforcement on county roadways. Total citations swelled by 5 percent last year, though the number of traffic officers - both DUI and motors units - remained the same.

The county's flagship agency wrote more than 143,000 tickets last year, or roughly 392 per day.

Evocative of heightened safety was a 20 percent surge in the number of DUI arrests (2,916), and a substantial drop in traffic-related fatalities (10 percent), officials said.

Sixty-five people died on Gwinnett roadways in 2007, compared with 49 last year. Those numbers include pedestrian fatalities, said Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman.

The upped DUI arrests and citations "clearly had a significant impact on the number of lives saved from traffic fatalities in 2008," she said.

It's hard to say exactly where the credit for improved safety lies, though Spellman pointed to several crackdowns last year in areas experiencing traffic fatalities, measures that included DUI checkpoints and education about pedestrian and bicycle laws.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety's launched broader, annual initiatives last summer and near the holidays aimed at curbing drunk driving.

Authorities began enforcing a new DUI law July 1 that makes a fourth DUI a felony charge.