DUI emphasis program made roads safer during holidays

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Drunken driving is a very serious problem in society. About 10,000 people a year are killed in alcohol-related vehicle crashes. That accounts for about one-third of all traffic deaths.

Thankfully, the number of deaths caused by drunken (or drug-impaired) drivers has been reduced significantly in the past 30 years. Three decades ago, in 1982, the number of deaths reported was over 21,000, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A decade later that number dropped to around 15,000 a year.

The decline in drunken driving deaths came about because of aggressive public awareness campaigns coupled with tougher drunken driving laws and strict enforcement. Drunken driving is no longer seen as acceptable in society — which wasn’t necessarily the case 30 years ago.

The efforts to reduce drunken driving and save lives have been vigorous in the Walla Walla Valley. Washington state has also put a lot of resources into making our roads safer.

During the recent holiday season — from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day — Washington state launched its Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign.

And the Walla Walla Sheriff’s Office, Walla Walla Police Department and College Place Police Department participated. The extra DUI patrols were funded by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, The Walla Walla County Traffic Safety Task Force was also involved.

The program was a clear success as fewer drunken drivers were arrested this year as compared to last year even with more cops on the road.

In Walla Walla, Asotin and Garfield counties, 21 motorists were stopped and arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Last year in those same counties during the same time period, officers arrested 47 drivers for DUI.

Drivers took the warning of extra patrols seriously. We also suspect many took advantage to the local Tipsi Taxi program, which provides free transportation home for anyone impaired.

This is a great program that has undoubtedly saved lives in this Valley over the years. In addition, some bars and taverns offer their customers free taxi rides year round if they have had too much to drink.

Ultimately, drunken driving in the Walla Walla Valley — as well as the state and nation — has decreased because of the tireless work to make roads safer. It’s appreciated.

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