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Local police to emphasize DUI patrols until Labor Day to stem deadly August syndrome
MARYSVILLE Police in Snohomish County will be conducting additional drunk driving patrols from now until Labor Day, during what has been the busiest time of the year for DUI arrests and fatalities.
State money will be paying for additional overtime hours for local police departments to conduct the patrols: Marysville police asked for $2,500 for 48 hours of additional patrols, Arlington got 50 hours, and Lake Stevens got 32. The additional money comes from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, and it comes at just the right time, according to spokeswoman Kate Carlsen.
Our big push is the holidays and summer, Carlsen said. Summer is one of the highest times for DUI, ironically enough. I thought Christmas or the holidays would be the highest time.
She suspected that when the weather is hot, and people are active, having barbecues and the last bashes of the summer, they are drinking more and not taking enough precautions. The Labor Day weekend is one of the deadliest on Washington roads, averaging more than eight deaths in recent years.
The additional patrols start Aug. 15 and will continue until Labor Day as part of the Drive Hammered, Get Nailed campaign. The commission is trying to reverse a disturbing trend in fatality DUI cases, where a sharp drop in deaths from 2002 to 2004 was abruptly halted and fatalities statewide increased dramatically. In 2002 there were 262 DUI-related deaths in Washington; that fell to 214 two years later before spiking to 268 in 2005 and 252 the next year.
In 2006 there were 3,350 drinking related crashes in state, with 229 of the fatal crashes resulting in the 252 deaths, according to statistics from the commission. There were also 42,804 drivers charged with DUI in 2006. Thats down from a high of 44,685 in 2003.
Nationally almost 18,000 people died in alcohol-related crashes last year, up from 15,172 in 2005.
The commission released studies showing drivers can be impaired even if they are under the .08 blood alcohol limit under Washington state law. Adult drivers over the age of 20 are four times more likely to die in a crash where the drivers blood alcohol level is between .050 and .079 than a sober driver is, but male teenage drivers are 15 times more likely to die in crashes at the same alcohol level than a sober driver.