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County data show DUI arrests level, though incidents may be dropping
The Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force released the results of holiday DUI enforcement patrols this week.
The task force reported 148 DUI arrests in Kitsap County alone during the holidays, and 3,446 in Washington State. In that same time-frame last year, Kitsap officers made 144 DUI arrests.
From Nov. 21 through Jan. 1, police officers throughout Washington participated in a national campaign aimed at reducing drunk driving and alcohol-related incidents.
In Washington, that campaign is called "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over," and is funded by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission.
The commission funding allows law enforcement agencies to schedule extra DUI patrols by paying for officer overtime. Agencies can choose independently when and how they would like to execute those patrols.
In the past, for example, Kitsap County officers teamed up with officers in Pierce County for the "Bridge to Bridge to Bridge" campaign, executing DUI patrols from the Narrows bridge to the Hood Canal bridge to the Agate Passage bridge, which leads to Bainbridge.
This year, Kitsap County agencies worked together on two separate nights. The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington State Patrol, and the Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Suquamish Police Departments worked in conjunction on Dec. 14 and Dec. 31 (New Years Eve).
Officers in Kitsap County initiated 19 DUI arrests on those two nights.New Year's Eve is a common night for extra DUI patrols, as it is one of the worst nights for alcohol-related driving offenses.
Dec. 14 was chosen statewide and referred to as the "Night of 1,000 Stars" as more than 1,000 officers would execute DUI patrols on Washington roads that night.
Officers in Kitsap County used the night as a way to honor Tony Radulescu, the Washington State Patrol Trooper who was killed during a traffic stop in Gorst last year.
Marsha Masters, the "Target Zero" manager for the Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force, said officers attempt to make as many contacts as possible during extra patrols.
By doing as many routine stops for infractions like speeding, and having lights out, officers are able to check as many drivers as possible.
"They don't just pull a car over," Masters said. "They have to have probable cause to pull a car over."
Officers contacted 513 drivers on Dec. 14 and 31, writing 71 tickets for speeding, 42 for lack of insurance, and 28 for equipment violations in addition to the 19 DUI arrests.
Masters said the number of alcohol-related incidents is going down, which is encouraging, but as her title states, her goal is to reduce the number to zero.
She admits to being on a mental teeter-totter regarding the patrols. On one hand, if officers catch a lot of drunk drivers they're doing their job well; but on the other hand, if they catch only a few it may be a sign fewer motorists are drinking and driving.
"I never know whether I want them to get a lot of drunk drivers or if I want them to not get any," Masters said.
There were 21 traffic-related fatalities in Kitsap County in 2012. While the causes for five are still pending, Masters said at least 8 were alcohol-related.
In 2010, the most recent year statewide statistics are available, 42 percent of traffic fatalities involved a driver with a measurable Blood Alcohol Concentration.