Kitsap steps up DUI patrols

In 2006, nearly 18,000 Americans died in alcohol-related traffic collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

More than 250 of those deaths occurred in Washington.

Starting today, Kitsap County will participate in Drive Hammered, Get Nailed, a nationwide campaign aimed at impaired drivers. Local law enforcement agencies will put in an extra 278 hours patrolling the roadways today through Sept. 3.

August is one of the deadliest months of the year for traffic fatalities and Labor Day weekend is one of Washington’s deadliest holidays, averaging more than eight deaths a year, according to a news release.

“In the summer, traffic collisions and fatalities increase,” said Carolyn Pence, Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force coordinator.

“Hopefully with increased patrols and enforcement we can get some of those people off the roads before it happens.”

Pence said longer days and students returning from college during the summer may contribute to the rise of impaired drivers, but it also could be a variety of other factors.

“Summer is just usually a time for more get-togethers and can increase the chance for more drinking and driving,” she said.

Pence hopes the increased presence of law enforcement will raise awareness about impaired driving.

“Increased patrols in certain areas draws attention to the effort,” she said. “I see it as a possible deterrent.”

Every year, drunk and drugged driving causes one death every 33 minutes, one injury every two minutes and 1.5 million arrests nationwide, according to a news release. Pence hopes this month’s national DUI enforcement patrols help deter impaired drivers and decrease the number of deaths and injuries each year.

“If we can get people to slow down, buckle up and drive sober that would be great,” Pence said.

As of July 1, some of those arrested for DUI in Washington could face felony charges if they have four previous DUI arrests within a 10-year period. This could carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. DUI could only be charged as a misdemeanor in the past, according to a news release. Local law enforcement agencies may put this new law to use during the DUI enforcement patrols.

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