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DUI patrols increase

Local police, area sheriff’s deputies and Washington State Patrol are increasing DUI patrols.

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — Police in Federal Way are ready to put 100 new patrols on the streets looking for drunken drivers.

nickandderekThe City Council shelled out $50,000 Tuesday night to crack down on what police are saying is an epidemic of impaired drivers.

It all started with a pilot program called ‘The Nick and Derek Poject,’ named after two local teenagers who were killed in a crash caused by a repeat DUI driver.

“I think most people think the worst thing that could happen to them is they get arrested,” said Mary Bobbitt. “That’s not even close.”

Bobbitt’s son, Nicholas Hodgins, and his friend Derek King never had a chance when their car broke down on I-5 in 2010.

Alexander Peder, who police said was drunk at the time, slammed into their car, killing Nick and Derek, and injuring their friend. Peder was sentenced to eight years in prison.

“Utilizing the name of Nick and Derek is going to help us do a better job in Federal Way,” said Lt. Kurt Schwann with the Federal Way Police Department.

It all started with a pilot program last year, with a $10,000 grant, that put more officers on the streets and on the hunt for drunken drivers.

Cops arrested 18 DUI drivers during the pilot, and almost half of those had blood alcohol levels that were twice the legal limit.

On Tuesday, the Federal Way City Council turned the pilot program into a permanent patrol.

“Nine out of 10 times the officers went out to do a DUI enforcement shift, they would arrest a suspect for DUI,” said Schwann.

Bobbitt is humbled that the city is using her son’s name to continue arresting DUI drivers.

“It can help make people aware,” said Bobbitt. “When you talk about the Nick and Derek Project, it brings the accident to people’s minds.”

Losing her son just three days before graduation will forever haunt Bobbitt.

Now a plaque commemorating the Nick and Derek Project joins the pictures of her son on her living room hutch. Bobbitt hopes the program will finally convince drivers to stay off the roads if they’ve been drinking.

“Things aren’t really sinking in for people and we’re not hitting this mark to try to reduce drunk drivers,” said Bobbitt.

Patrol officers won’t just be on the lookout for drunken drivers either – they’re also cracking down on drivers using their phones or are otherwise just driving while distracted.

SEATTLE — The raw data on alcohol-related arrests came from the Washington State Patrol — and it shows they are declining.

The results were extrapolated by The Washington Policy Center, an independent, nonpartisan think tank.

“When the initiative (to privatize liquor sales) was being debated, I think there was some scare tactics being used with the public,” said Paul Guppy with The Washington Policy Center.

I-5 TrafficThe WPC looked at data on alcohol arrests from the 2008-2009 fiscal year and compared it to the 2012-2013 fiscal year and found predictions of doom from those who opposed privatization were greatly exaggerated.

“I think they were reaching for the most dramatic prediction they could make, that kids would get alcohol, that the roads would be more dangerous and, again, it was a kind of scare tactic that was used but we’re finding that the numbers show that that hasn’t turned out to be the case,” Guppy said.

The Washington Policy Center found DUI arrests down 10%, DUI-related collisions down 18% and minors in possession of alcohol fell 47%.

“We would certainly agree that the sky isn’t falling, but we think it is problematic to draw this conclusion from these numbers,” State Patrol spokesman Robert Calkins said.

A drop in DUI-related arrests is great news for police and the public, but the State Patrol believes staffing, or the lack thereof, is more likely the reason DUI arrests continue to decline.

“We think the number of DUI arrests is much more a function of how many troopers we have on the road as opposed to any change in societal behavior,” Calkins said.

The State Patrol is currently down about 80 troopers.

The Washington Policy Center said it took that into account, but it didn’t change the findings.

“We found that arrests were down anyway so even though the State Patrol is down slightly in officers, arrests are even down more than that,” Guppy said.

Still, the State Patrol believes the number of troopers makes a difference.

“When you’re short of troopers, it’s now the troopers you have left have to go to more collisions, more disabled vehicles, they don’t have time to do the kind of proactive patrol that you can go out and arrests DUIs for. So the shortage of troopers has an impact on remaining troopers,” Calkins said.

Whether the downward trend continues is anyone’s guess but the State Patrol staffing problem is expected to get worse before it gets better.

Three hundred more troopers are becoming eligible for retirement in the next few years, which would obviously stretch resources even further.

They are hiring and anyone interested is encouraged to apply.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Labor Day is one of the busiest driving holidays as people head out for one last summer trip, and this year we’re going to have company on the open road – the Washington State Patrol.

copThe WSP isn’t messing around; it’s beefing up patrols on the ground and in the air over Interstate 5 in a bid to make the highway safer for everybody.

“With aircraft in the air, we can hit our lights off, go normal speed and let aircraft fly over top of them,” said trooper Mark Francis.

“Things from the air really stand out,” said Sgt. Kirk Rudeen. “The vehicle that’s speeding by traffic really stands out; the one that’s tailgating really stands out. The one that’s moving rapidly through traffic stands out.”

The State Patrol has dozens of extra troopers working overtime this weekend to catch problem drivers.

Statistics indicate the stretch of I-5 between Northgate and Marysville is especially dangerous.

“We’ve seen a series of injury fatal collisions and overall collisions,” said Rudeen. “We’ve looked at the data; we’re deploying all resources for this weekend in this area.”

With the planes and the extra units, the patrol is confident they can cut down collisions over the three-day break. And with all the special events downtown, troopers expect to be busy.

Officers are also cracking down on drivers talking on the phone or texting.

“It’s not about how many tickets we can write; it’s about how many collisions we can reduce,” said Rudeen.

Local News

DUI patrols kick off Labor Day weekend

DUI-DefenseMARYSVILLE –- Washington State Patrol Troopers are hitting Interstate 5 between South Snohomish County and North King County staring Friday and continuing through Sept. 9.

The stretch of highway between mile posts 173 and 193 is considered a high collision. Patrols are increasing to a total of 70 to 80 troopers cruising the stretch of highway looking for speeders, reckless drivers and anyone under the influence.

dui patrolsMARYSVILLE, Wash — Expect to see more law enforcement on the roads this Labor Day weekend. The Washington State Patrol will conduct emphasis patrols to crack down on aggressive, reckless drivers, and people driving under the influence.

The focus will be on a stretch of I-5 from south Snohomish County to north King County between mileposts 173 and 193. This area has been designated as one the high collision areas with all the events around north Puget Sound over the busy Labor Day weekend.

WSP says 70-80 troopers will be working in this specific area using several specialized teams in an effort to reduce collisions.

The emphasis patrols begin August 30th until September 9th.