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Increased patrols aim to limit drunk driving

The Gresham police have already made 17 arrests in the first week of a holiday enforcement program

The Gresham Police Department announced Thanksgiving Day that it is ramping up high-visibility enforcement against impaired drivers during this holiday season.

The GPD made 17 DUII arrests since the enforcement program began Friday, Nov. 21 until Sunday, Nov. 30. Three of those involved a non-injury crash. The program will continue into December.

Police officers will be roaming the streets assertively looking for drivers who might be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. The goal of the campaign is to save lives by deterring citizens from driving after indulging in holiday spirits.

“All DUII-related crashes (especially involving injury to innocent parties) are horrible,” said GPD spokesman Det. John Rasmussen. “The time of year may play into ... when you think of a family never making it to grandma’s for Thanksgiving or Christmas because they were hit by a drunk driver.”

Rasmussen said the increased patrols are an annual effort and that the police also do other high-visibility events throughout the year focused on other issues, such as seatbelts and pedestrian safety.

Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 11, 2013, Gresham showed an increase in DUII arrests by 12 percent compared to the same time period in 2012, Rasmussen said.

“So, these patrols are showing to be effective in getting impaired drivers off the road before they kill people,” he said.

According to national advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in the last year data is available, 2012, there were 86 fatalities from drunk driving in Oregon, making up 26 percent of all traffic deaths. MADD said legistlation in 2007 and 2011 requiring ignition interlocks — a device that prevents the car from starting if the driver’s breath has alcohol in it — have dramatically reduced the number of crashes from impaired drivers.

Nationwide, around 10,000 people die each year from drunk driving or about one every 51 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In a news release, the Gresham Police Department said the increased patrols would be throughout Gresham and that grant funds from the Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon Impact would be used to offset the cost of overtime for the officers.

According to The Law Dictionary, an online legal resource, the Fourth of July is the deadliest holiday for DUII. Thanksgiving is beginning to edge out New Year’s Eve as the second-deadliest holiday.

By Shasta Kearns Moore
email: shasta@portlandtribune.com
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