Eagle County sees no 2012 drunk-driving deaths | VailDaily.com

Eagle County sees no 2012 drunk-driving deaths

Daily file photo by Kristin Anderson

EAGLE COUNTY – Drunk drivers killed no one in Eagle County in 2012, said a report from the Gore Range DUI Task Force.

“We met our No. 1 goal,” said Deputy Jake Best, with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and director of the Gore Range DUI Task Force.

It’s the first fatality-free year anyone can remember. During the past couple of years, Eagle County has suffered at least five alcohol related fatalities. The death toll spiked at 13 fatalities in 2007.

More than 40,000 vehicles roll through Eagle County on Interstate 70 each day, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

It’s public education combined with increased law enforcement, Best said.

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Eagle County’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign through the holiday season saw 23 impaired-driving arrests, eight other significant arrests and 38 citations during the special enforcement period, Dec. 12 through Jan. 1.

“Unfortunately, the holidays are a prime time for impaired drivers,” said Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy. “But drinking and driving is a choice, and we wanted to be out in force to show zero tolerance for those that choose to put their lives and the lives of innocent victims on the line.”

Statewide success

The Colorado State Patrol’s statewide anti-DUI enforcement saw similar results during the holidays.

The Colorado State Patrol reported no fatal crashes due to impaired driving during the holiday weekend, Dec. 28 through Jan. 2.

“Fortunately, none of our troopers had to knock on a door during the holiday weekend to tell a family that one of their loved ones was killed in a drunk-driving crash,” said James Wolfinbarger, chief of the Colorado State Patrol.

The Colorado State Patrol investigated four injury crashes involving suspected alcohol and/or drug use, Wolfinbarger said.

In Grand Junction, troopers investigated a fatal crash in which a suspected intoxicated pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on New Year’s Day.

Troopers statewide issued 81 DUI/D citations during the enforcement period. The majority of those were proactive, with troopers arresting the alleged drunk drivers before a crash occurred.

Why it works

That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work, said Josh Lewis, a trooper with the Colorado State Patrol.

Law enforcement looks for the same things they always look for, Lewis said.

“It’s driving actions first and foremost,” Lewis said. “Are they driving too fast? Too slow? Are they weaving, using their running lights on and no headlights?”

If you’re stopped because they think you’re driving drunk or impaired, they’ll ask motorists how much you’ve had to drink, Lewis said.

“Two is the magic number. It’s always two. If they say it was more than that, they’re admitting to drinking and driving. If they say one, they know they’re not believable,” Lewis said.

Technology helps, Lewis said. Motorists can hit *CSP or 911 on their cell phones to report drunk drivers.

“Finding a drunk driver is an emergency we will welcome,” Lewis said.

If you’re not who they’re looking for, they’ll quickly tell you to have a nice night and send you on your way and keep looking for that drunk driver, Lewis said.

“If everything’s good, we want to try to find that person before they crash,” Lewis said. “If it’s 99 times of 100, we’d rather respond to 99 calls to find that one driver.”

Nationwide, 32,885 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes during 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of those, 31 percent (10,228) occurred in alcohol-impaired crashes.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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