Patrols focus on impaired drivers

Not only is drunk driving dumb, it's stupid.

In Island County, as anywhere, getting behind the wheel after a few drinks might seem like a fun and funny idea at the time, but every drunk driver risks his life and the lives of other drivers and pedestrians. That's the dumb part.

The stupid part is that, with extra patrols stepped up for the holiday season, drunk drivers face arrest, imprisonment and a long season of bus riding.

Noting that more Washington citizens were killed in DUI-related collisions in 2001 than the year before, the Board of Island County Commissioners signed a proclamation Monday designating December as "National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Awareness Month."

Speaking on the issue before the commissioners made their proclamation, Sheriff Mike Hawley said he will be increasing patrols, especially on Friday nights and during weekends when holiday partying is most likely to occur. Deputies will be keeping an eye out for impaired drivers. They will be monitoring traffic in undisclosed areas and cracking down in earnest.

"Drunk driving is probably one of the leading causes of death to our citizens, both locally and nationally," Hawley said, adding that he hopes the extensive patrols prove unnecessary.

In Washington, 281 people were killed in DUI-related car crashes last year. Over half of the 1,000-plus motor vehicle crashes in unincorporated Island County were DUI-related. On South Whidbey, one man apparently died as a result of driving while intoxicated this past summer. He crashed his car at high speed on Langley Road.

In passing the proclamation, the board recognized the importance of the Impaired Driving Impact Panel of Island County (IDIPIC), an organization that "considers its highest priority to be the protection of citizens from hazards such as impaired driving."

IDIPIC urges drivers, party goers and party hosts to take such preventive measures as designating sober drivers, stopping impaired family members and friends from driving, reporting impaired drivers to law enforcement officials and teaching young people that driving while drunk isn't worth it.

"Despite many efforts by communities and citizen groups to stop drunk and drugged driving, many of our citizens mistakenly continue to view impaired driving as acceptable conduct, thereby needlessly threatening our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors," read the board's proclamation.

The commissioners said they join with the efforts of IDIPIC in urging county residents to do their best to avoid and prevent the tragedies that happen when drunk drivers get on the road.

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