DUI patrols hit the roadways hard

Annual emphasis night goes mobile with law enforcement resources

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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Friday morning, Sgt. Jason Cuthbert responded to one traffic collision after the next and pushed cars that got stuck on snowy Clark County roadways. By night, he searched for drunken drivers as part of the annual Night of 1,000 Stars.

"We get a lot of DUIs in this time period," he said. Holiday parties bump up the numbers he sees.

"It's kind of sad, because you have so many families driving this time of year," said Cuthbert.

A local trooper can process anywhere from 75 to 200 DUIs each year. The problem with drinking and driving, he says, is that you can't divide your attention. An impaired motorist can't do all the multitasking required to drive.

The Washington State Patrol processed its first DUI suspect, a 24-year-old man, just before 10 p.m. Friday in the Mobile Impaired Driving Unit.

The WSP's MIDU is a 38-foot converted Winnebago recreational vehicle with three DataMaster alcohol breath testers, computers for typing reports and two small holding cells. The vehicle allows patrol offices to drop off suspects and get back on the road.

At night, with its red and blue lights flashing, the Winnebago looks somewhat like an oversized patrol car.

On Friday night, it camped out in the parking lot of the District 5 headquarters for the 22nd annual Night of 1,000 Stars, a night of DUI emphasis patrol. While the State Patrol is the lead agency, other area agencies join in to crack down on impaired drivers.

The busiest time for processing DUIs is between midnight and 2 a.m. Last year, troopers processed 17 of them in the MIDU — most were during the midnight hour.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board was invited to help police with the emphasis. It's the first time they've participated in the annual patrol emphasis in about three years. Officer Kendra Treco said her primary job is to visit liquor establishments and see if bartenders are serving liquor to minors or people who are already intoxicated. She may spot people who are clearly intoxicated trying to drive away.

Troopers usually stay in the MIDU till about 3 a.m., processing the people who come through and getting them rides home.

I-5 Challenge

This was the second high-visibility project focusing on highway traffic safety in recent days. On Thursday, the Washington State Patrol announced that the "I-5 Challenge" was a success.

Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste challenged drivers to "Arrive Alive" with zero fatalities on I-5 during the Thanksgiving weekend. Motorists in Washington met this challenge with no traffic deaths on I-5 during the holiday weekend.