Cracking down on drunken drivers

The last days of summer in Washington can be deadly.

Each year, an average of nine people die on the state’s roads during the last two weeks of August and Labor Day weekend, officials said.

They are victims of drunken drivers and the deaths are preventable, said Shelly Baldwin, a spokeswoman with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

“The increased drinking and celebrations leads to increased drinking and driving,” she said. “We want you to change your behavior. We don’t want you to get arrested for drinking and driving.”

In Snohomish County, the commission is helping nine different law enforcement agencies put extra patrols on the roads from Wednesday to Sept. 3 to look for impaired drivers.

The commission will pay more than $22,000 in the county for overtime shifts, Baldwin said.

A portion of that translates to about 60 extra shifts for the Washington State Patrol, trooper Kirk Rudeen said.

Last year, the patrol made 164 arrests for suspected drunken driving during the same late-summer period.

“For every impaired driver we get off the road, that’s a fatality we prevented,” he said.

About 40 percent of traffic deaths are caused by drunken drivers, Baldwin said.

Last year, about 632 people died on the state’s roads.

For the first six months of 2006, nearly 200 people have died, she said. That’s about the same as the first half of last year. In 2006, 252 people died from drunken driving crashes.

“We’re right on track for another bad year,” she said.

The commission is paying for the increased drunken driving enforcement, which is happening in all but one county in the state.

For the past several years, the commission has helped police crack down on drunken drivers during the December holidays and late summer, Baldwin said.

They hope to reverse the trend of traffic fatalities through education and enforcement, she said.

“Our mission is to reduce the death and injury toll on our highways every day. We believe we can prevent nearly all of them,” Baldwin said.

Designate a sober driver or take a taxi if plans call for alcohol, Rudeen said.

Drive drunk and expect to see flashing lights in the rear-view mirror, he said.

“If they make that choice to drive while they’re impaired, we’re going to do everything we can to find them and take them off the roadway,” he said.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or

Extra DUI patrols

Police around Snohomish County will have extra patrols out looking for drunken drivers.

They’ll be on the road Wednesday through Sept. 3, a time of the year when traffic fatalities increase.

Avoid dangerous and potentially fatal collisions by planning ahead, police say.

Never drink and drive. If alcohol will be served, designate a driver to stay sober or take a cab.

If you see someone driving erratically and can safely make a phone call, dial 911.

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