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Basin DUI arrests decline during holidays

Follows statewide trend

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Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013 9:00 am

MOSES LAKE - The DUI enforcement campaign,"Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" led to a 20 percent decline in DUI arrests in Grant and Adams Counties during the holiday season as compared to 2011's efforts.

The most recent campaign resulted in 78 drivers being stopped and arrested for driving under the influence this year, which was a decrease of 16 arrests compared to 2011.

There were 94 people arrested for DUI in Grant and Adams counties in 2011, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC).

From Nov. 21 through Jan. 1., law enforcement across the state increased DUI patrols as part of the campaign, resulting in more than 3,400 arrests. The figure declined by 11 percent as compared to last year.

The safety commission said given the number of festivities that may involve alcohol, the holiday season is an important time for increased patrols.

First-time offenders face up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine for a DUI conviction.

Angie Ward, WTSC program manager, said the commission is beginning to see trends of fewer DUI arrests across the state. There were more than 3,800 DUI arrests during the same extra patrol period in 2011. Ward said she hopes less people are drinking and driving and are thinking about the consequences.

The Ephrata, Moses Lake and Othello police departments, the Grant County Sheriff's Office and the Washington State Patrol participated in the extra patrol efforts funded by a grant from the WTSC.

Erica Simmons, Target Zero manager and coordinator at the Central Basin Traffic Safety Task Force, said the reduced DUI arrests cannot be attributed to any one thing. The Central Basin Traffic Safety Task Force works in both Grant and Adams Counties to provide traffic safety education and enforcement.

"Officer overtime hours fluctuate and even though public awareness increases, there are many other factors," Simmons said. "The overall goal of traffic emphasis patrols and enforcement campaigns...is that we are reducing traffic fatalities."

According to the most recent data from the WTSC, both Grant and Adams county saw an overall reduction in traffic fatalities involving impaired drivers from 1998-2007.

Simmons said the program has been successful in terms of informing the public awareness and conducting high visibility patrols, but evidence of the program reducing traffic fatalities still needs answered.

According to the WTSC, strict enforcement and public education have proven to reduce DUI accidents and fatalities. The "Drive sober" campaign is part of Washington's Target Zero program, aimed to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030, according to the program website.

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