Stronger DUI patrols for Puget Sound region

EVERETT — Drunk drivers now face a greater chance of getting caught in Snohomish County and elsewhere in the Puget Sound region.

A $4.8 million federal grant will pay for more officers to track down impaired drivers in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties over the next two years.

They’ll be part of what are called Target Zero teams that will be deployed to areas with high numbers of drunk-driving collisions.

The core of the teams will be 21 Washington State Patrol troopers. Local agencies also will contribute deputies or officers as time and resources permit.

In Snohomish County, the grant means six troopers and a sergeant will be part of a new detachment, working at night.

“They’ll be out in addition to the regular crews who work our day and night schedules,” said trooper Keith Leary.

The troopers will be joined by police personnel from 13 local cities, the sheriff’s office and the Tulaip Tribes.

Between 2005 and 2009, there were 210 fatal collisions in Snohomish County. Drunken drivers were involved in 53 percent.

Leary said the project goes well beyond putting more officers on the road. It will rely on research, technology and more coordination among agencies.

“These will be intense, multi-agency, data-driven patrols with the goal of reducing fatalities and serious injuries,” said Lowell Porter, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “We will use objective data to make sure we’re patrolling the right roads, at the right time, with officers very experienced at arresting impaired drivers.”

Sophisticated mapping software will be used to guide the patrols, meaning officers will know where crashes are occurring and which roads lead to high-collision areas.

Police departments likely will assign officers who are among the most motivated and experienced at arresting impaired drivers.

Prosecutors specializing in traffic cases will work closely with officers to improve the quality and content of their investigations and reports.

“It’s a giant project,” Leary said.

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

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