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DUI emphasis patrols to be out in force locally

Between Wednesday, Aug. 15, and Labor Day, Sept. 3, extra DUI enforcement patrols will be taking place throughout Yakima County to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries caused by impaired drivers.

August is one of the deadliest months for traffic fatalities and Labor Day weekend is one of Washington's deadliest holidays, averaging more than eight deaths each year.

This "Drive Hammered...Get Nailed" campaign is a joint effort between the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, law enforcement statewide and the Yakima County Traffic Safety Task Force.

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, a total of 1,217 people died in Washington state in collisions involving a drinking driver during the five-year period from 2002 to 2006. The year-by-year DUI deaths include 262 people in 2002, 221 in '03, 214 in '04, 268 in '05 and 252 last year.

During 2006 in Washington, there were 3,350 drinking driver involved crashes, 229 of those were fatal crashes, which resulted in 252 deaths.

As of July 1, 2007, some individuals arrested for DUI in Washington state could face felony charges if they have four previous DUI arrests within a 10-year period, which would carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Previously, DUI could only be charged as a misdemeanor, regardless of how many prior DUIs were on a person's driving record.

During 2006, there were 42,804 people charged with DUI in Washington. The number of people charged with DUI from 2002 to 2005 range from 41,860 to 44,685.

Nationally, alcohol driving fatalities are rising. During 2006, 17,941 Americans died in alcohol-related traffic collisions, compared to 15,172 during 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for Americans aged 1 to 43. Forty (40) percent are caused by drinking drivers.

Each year, drunk and drugged driving leads to one death every 33 minutes, one injury every two minutes and1.5 million arrests nationally.

Alcohol impairs driving skills even at low blood alcohol concentration levels. Safety experts say the majority of drivers are significantly impaired with a blood alcohol concentration level of .05.

Studies show that a 21 to 34 year-old driver with a blood alcohol concentration level between .05 and .79 is four times more likely to die in a crash than a sober driver in the same age group. For a male driver aged 16 to 20, a blood alcohol concentration level between .05 and .079 is 15 times more likely to die in a crash than a sober driver in the same age group.

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