DUI incidents down despite string of recent crashes 

A suspected drunken driver plowed into the front bedroom of a house in San Mateo on Tuesday evening, the latest in a string of publicized drunken-driving incidents in San Mateo County.

The crash occurred at 9:29 p.m., when Kay Rabb, 44, a San Mateo resident, driving her Chevrolet Impala along West Hillsdale Boulevard, veered off the road, crashed into a parked Honda and came to a rest in the house. Two occupants in the house were not harmed; Rabb was arrested at the scene.

San Mateo police Lt. Tom Daughtry said details of whether Rabb was speeding or where she was going are still under investigation.

Citing that no one was injured, Daughtry said, "This accident could have been disastrous."

The incident adds to two recent drunken-driving cases that are in the courts.

However, officials were reluctant to say whether there is any upward trend in alcohol-related accidents.

Tim Birch, a management analyst for the Daly City Police Department who collects countywide data, said there were 54 DUI-related injuries between January and March 2005 and 62 between January and March 2006. Data for 2007 is not yet available.

There were two alcohol-related fatalities in 2004, seven in 2005 and six in 2006 in San Mateo County, according to officials.

Capt. Don O’Keefe of the county Sheriff’s Office said it’s hard to tell which way DUI trends go.

"They go in spurts," he said. "Sometimes we see several in a week and then it drops off. And once in a while, we see a fatality."

In a recent crash that involved a fatality, Ignacio Hernandez-Flores, 27, of Portola Valley allegedly slammed his Ford pickup truck into a tree in Portola Valley on April 1, killing a passenger, Marco Hernandez-Lopez, 27, and critically injuring another unidentified passenger. Hernandez-Flores is in custody without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned today.

In another case, Richard Tom, 45, will face a bail hearing next week for a Feb. 19 incident in which he allegedly broadsided a Nissan Maxima with his Mercedes-Benz in Redwood City, killing an 8-year-old girl, Sydney Ng, and sending Ng’s mother and sister to the hospital.

California Highway Patrol officer Eric Parsons said DUI data depends on how effective law enforcement is at catching intoxicated motorists.

"We only catch a percentage out there," he said. "In terms of how many [drunken drivers] are out there, we don’t know for sure."

bfoley@examiner.com

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