Stepped-Up DUI Patrols

<p>Trooper Sergio Cervantes</p>

Trooper Sergio Cervantes

Starting tonight, law enforcement in our region will have extra patrols on the roads and highways looking for impaired drivers.

They say the Saint Patrick's Day holiday usually results in more drunks behind the wheel.
  
It's part of Washington's Target Zero - Strategic Highway Plan, where the goal is to have zero deaths or serious injuries by 2030.

This weekend officers from all of our local police departments plus Benton and Franklin Sheriff's Offices and state patrol are working together to crack down on DUI.

Advice to revellers: If you drink, don't drive.

Trooper Sergio Cervantes has been doing St. Patrick's Day patrols for seven years.  For him, it's a no brainer.

"Zero tolerance - if you're impaired you're gonna go to jail," said Cervantes.  

Lt. Mike Saunders says March 17 has been identified by the Washington Safety Commission as one of the most inebriated days of the year.  Police will be out patrolling in full force on the roads and also watchng specific locations in our area.

"Generally where there are establishments where they are serving alcohol, we will be watching," said Saunders.

Cervantes said police don't want to put an end to the celebration, just the damage from a bad decision.

"Plan ahead. If you're gonna go and celebrate the occassion just plan ahead. Make sure you have a designated driver, or you can call a cab," said Cervantes.

Tri-City Taxi is using a program called 'Night Service' subsidized by Benton Franklin Transit. This allows people to book a taxi to and from anywhere in the area for a flat $3 dollar fee.  Manager Alex Bedoya says reservations are necessary, but it's a cheap and safe way for people to get home.

"All they have to do is call us and we'll be there to take them home," said Bedoya.

Good advice.  In 2011, there were 64 DUI arrests made during this time period. The number went down by nine to 55 last year. Police agencies hope to further reduce numbers again this weekend.

The stepped up patrols begin tonight and will continue through till Sunday.