County sees no serious DUI-related crashes over Thanksgiving

36 drivers cited in drunk-driving stops during holiday period

By Paul Suarez, Columbian freelance

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Extra patrols caught a few people who allegedly had too many drinks this holiday weekend, but Clark County appeared to be free of serious DUI-related traffic accidents, officials said.

Troopers with Washington State Patrol’s District 5, which serves Lewis, Cowlitz, Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties, stopped 36 alleged DUI drivers between Wednesday morning and 5 a.m. Monday. (Twenty-six of those were in the Vancouver area.)

State patrol spokesman Trooper Ryan Tanner said those numbers mean troopers did a good job keeping the roads safe. His district had five overtime shifts over the weekend in Clark County: two on Friday and three on Sunday.

Over the weekend there were at least three DUI-related crashes in the county but they appeared to be minor-injury or no-injury crashes, Tanner said.

The state patrol usually has overtime shifts on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, when people travel long distances to attend functions with family and friends.

“We all know alcohol gets served at those things,” Tanner said. “With extra patrols, we typically see an increase in DUI arrests.”

State troopers were joined by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Battle Ground, Camas, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver and Washougal police departments that have extra DUI patrols through Jan. 2.

Money for the extra shifts comes from federal gas tax dollars and is distributed through the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, program manager Angie Ward said.

The commission is spending a little less than it has in previous years, but is seeing a positive change in residents’ behavior.

“People are getting better this year when it comes to plans,” Ward said.

The commission isn’t asking people not to drink, she said, it just wants them to think about how they’ll get home before they start drinking.

During last year’s Thanksgiving-to-New Year campaign, 226 people were arrested in Clark County on suspicion of DUI, according to data from the WTSC.

The only serious suspected DUI-related accident in the Southwest Washington area this past weekend happened just before 2:30 a.m. Sunday on state Highway 4 near Longview, Tanner said.

According to a state patrol bulletin, a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta driven by Brandon L. Warren, 22, of Clatskanie, Ore., was traveling west on Highway 4 west of Longview when the car swerved to the left, crossed the eastbound lanes and went off the roadway. The car struck a guardrail, power pole and tree before coming to a stop down an embankment. A passenger in the car, Jared L. Britton, 22, also of Clatskanie, Ore., was trapped under the car for 2[ ] hours while officials moved the power line off the car, Tanner said.

Britton was flown by Life Flight from St. John Medical Center in Longview to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center with multiple fractures. He was listed in satisfactory condition on Monday, a PeaceHealth employee said.

Warren was transported to St. John with a fractured back. He was arrested on suspicion of vehicular assault and DUI, the bulletin said.

The state patrol is expected to release official numbers for statewide crash fatalities over the Thanksgiving weekend later in the week.

Oregon State Police said in a release its officers made nine DUII arrests in the Portland area between 6 p.m. Wednesday and 11:59 p.m. Sunday. It says three people died in three separate traffic crashes across Oregon in the same time period.