County prosecutors honored for DUI targeting

EVERETT — They don’t handle high-profile, headline-grabbing cases, but a team of Snohomish County prosecutors and staff are saving lives by aggressively pursuing drunken-driving and speeding cases.

That’s the conclusion of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which recognized the prosecutor’s office earlier this week with an award.

“We want others to emulate what you are doing,” the agency’s regional administrator, John Moffat, told the staff.

In recent years, Snohomish County became part of a “Target Zero” effort involving the Washington State Patrol troopers and other law enforcement agencies as well as prosecutors who focus on the three main factors contributing to traffic fatalities: impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear seat belts.

Traffic safety experts pointed to statistics they say show fewer people are dying or getting injured on Snohomish County roadways. The annual death toll from drunken- and drug-impaired driving accidents dropped from 26 to 16 between 2009 and 2011. Speeding-caused deaths were nearly reduced by half from 25 to 13.

Besides a greater emphasis on the roads, there has been a more coordinated approach in the court system thanks in part to grant money that provided for an additional prosecutor, officials said.

County prosecutor Mark Roe said more drunken-driving cases are being filed within 48 hours of a traffic stop and prosecutors are filing charges with lower blood-alcohol levels.

“They are prosecuting these cases more vigorously,” Roe said.

People are getting the message and are less likely to drive after drinking alcohol or risk speeding, Moffat said.

“The exciting thing is over time it changes the culture of the community,” he said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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