Wednesday, December 30, 2009
It's not a matter of picking on people or generating revenues via fines, it's about saving lives.
That's what Lower Valley law enforcement and the Washington State Patrol have to say about DUI patrols on New Year's Eve this coming Thursday.
"We don't want to see someone killed over a time of celebration," said WSP Sgt. Ed McAvoy. "This is the holiday season, what a tragic time to lose a loved one."
McAvoy said extra troopers will be on patrol in the Yakima, Sunnyside and Tri-Cities areas New Year's Eve, but that's not uncommon.
"There will be extra patrols just about everywhere you see law enforcement," he said.
Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder echoed the sentiment.
"We're going to do anything we can to get through the holiday season without any fatalities," Radder said.
In Sunnyside, that means extra patrol officers, with back-up from reserve officers. "One of the biggest things for people to remember is it's not just us out there, it's the sheriff's office and Washington State Patrol, too," Radder added.
Grandview is planning extra officers on duty, as well.
Law enforcement officials from different agencies agree that if you plan on drinking, you'll need a sober driver.
McAvoy suggests New Year's Eve Party hosts make a list of phone numbers for area taxis, shuttle busses and overnight accommodations, or, as he put it, "anything they can do to get people to not drive after they've been drinking."
Grandview Detective Mitch Fairchild said, "Just because you're not over the .08 legal limit doesn't mean you're not going to get a DUI," he said, adding officers rely on their training and experience when it comes to determining whether or not a person is impaired.
Fairchild said the average person burns off one drink per hour. What happens is a person has two or three drinks per hour, alcohol "sneaks up on them," and they incorrectly believe they are not impaired.
Many people mistakenly think refusing a breathylizer test will result in a lesser charge than driving under the influence. Fairchild said not only is that not true, but refusing the test automatically results in the driver losing his or her license for a year.
"If you've got nothing to hide, there's no reason not to take the test," Fairchild said.
Fairchild said when it comes to issuing a DUI citation, officers rely on their observance of the driver's physical skills during the sobriety test, as well as their observations of driving skills when behind the wheel, dexterity and even the odor of alcohol. There is an additional enhancement in charges if the breathylizer test reveals the driver is over .15.
If a person is arrested by Grandview law enforcement, he or she is placed in a cell for a sobriety hold, which lasts a minimum of six hours, depending on the level of impairment. The driver could also be required to post $500 bail. This is also how Sunnyside's legal system operates.
Radder said there's a lot at stake when driving drunk. "There are a significant amount of folks that live in the valley and work in agriculture. For some, that requires a CDL (commercial driver's license). You're risking your CDL if you drive impaired, you're risking your employment."
Fairchild said simply, "If you're going to drink, don't drive. That'd be my recommendation."
Radder said, "Very few people get in their car and say, 'I think I'm going to drive drunk and get in a fatal car accident.' You don't know what's worse, being the victim of a crash or being responsible for a fatal crash and living with that for the rest of your life."