Drunken driving enforcement up in December

The state's goal is zero fatalities on Washington roads by 2030.

The means to that goal are enforcement, education and engineering.

This holiday season law enforcement agencies in the area are stepping up their level of enforcement to reach Project Zero's goal.

Specifically, the Sequim Police Department, Clallam County Sheriff's Office, Port Angeles Police Department and Washington State Patrol are participating in the 18th annual Night of 1,000 Stars, the X-52 Driving Under the Influence Emphasis Program and a new program troopers began doing this year, enforcement through a DUI Aerial Response Team.

Organizers, such as those in the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission that is funding many of the extra patrols, hope the extra enforcement will reduce the number of drunken drivers on the roadway and save lives.

"Impaired driving continues to be the leading cause of death in motor vehicle crashes throughout Washington and therefore remains our No. 1 traffic safety priority," said Lowell Porter, director of the safety commission.

Many in the community support the efforts of law enforcement personnel to crack down on drunken drivers and support the public's choice to not drink and drive by tying a red ribbon onto their vehicles.

"This holiday season we need everyone to support law enforcement's efforts to crack down on drunk driving by tying a red ribbon to their vehicles," said Laura Dean-Mooney, Mothers Against Drunk Driving president. "MADD applauds the work of Gov. Christine Gregoire for her support of Washington state's strong alcohol ignition law and commends the Washington State Patrol for its leadership goal on zero traffic fatalities by the year 2030."

Project Zero

Clallam County DUI Task Force coordinator Jim Borte said local law enforcement officials will be looking for impaired drivers, speeders and other traffic law violators Dec. 13-14 during the Night of 1,000 Stars.

The local task force created the idea for the Night of 1,000 Stars in 1991. The stars refer to the five-pointed symbols on law enforcement personnel badges statewide that participate in the effort.

Borte indicated officers also will participate in a second enforcement patrol during the weekend of Dec. 19-21 as part of the X-52 Program, which provides for extra traffic enforcement on a weekly basis throughout the state.

Both programs are funded by the safety commission to provide additional officers for extra patrols above and beyond what law enforcement agencies already are providing.

Washington State Patrol troopers are being assisted by a new program this year; one that places troopers in a plane with an infrared camera to track suspected drivers under the influence. Many times dispatch centers will receive citizen reports of possibly intoxicated drivers but ground enforcement is not close enough to respond in a timely fashion. However, with a plane, troopers can be on scene within minutes.

The DUI Aerial Response Team is not likely to be flying over the peninsula this holiday season. However, their presence could be requested at any time by the local state patrol detachment.

"The program primarily covers King, Pierce and Snohomish counties," said DART team member Lt. Tristan Atkins. "But we have responded to the peninsula before, so it would not be unheard of for us to travel out there at the request of troopers in that area."

Organizers of all the extra emphasis programs are urging drivers to have a plan on how to get home safely without driving if alcohol is involved and for those hosting holiday parties to make sure transportation alternatives are available for those who drink.

Washington laws regarding driving while intoxicated have strong penalties: large fines, loss of license, jail time, increased insurance premiums and other significant sanctions.

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