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‘Thousand stars’ shine on drunken driving problem

Washington State Patrol trooper Scott Harter verfies a driver’s insurance while doing a vehicle stop. Friday, Dec. 16 was “Night of 1,000 stars” in Kitsap County to help cut down on DUI drivers. DUI 1 photo - Washington State Patrol Lieutenant Clint Casebolt inspecks the remains of a vehicle involved in a accident on Mullenix Rd Friday night. A driver under the influence of drugs and alcohal caused a three car collision.  DUI 2 photo - Washington State Patrol oficers take pictures of the remains of a vehicle involved in a accident on Mullenix Rd Friday night. A driver under the influence of drugs and alcohal caused a three car collision.  DUI 4 photo - Washington State Patrol officer Gill Vandenkooy does a field test on a driver. Vandenkooy leads all Kitsap County troopers with 115 DUI arrests for the year.   DUI 5 photo - Washington State Patrol officer Gill Vandenkooy does a field test on a drunk driver while Sgt Ron Mead (right) watches. Vandenkooy leads all Kitsap County troopers with 115 DUI arrests for the year.   DUI 6 photo - Washington State Patrol officer Gill Vandenkooy Arrestes a drunk driver while Sgt Ron Mead (right) watches. Vandenkooy leads all Kitsap County troopers with 115 DUI arrests for the year.  DUI 6 photo - Washington State Patrol officer Gill Vandenkooy places a drunk driver in the back of his police car while Sgt Ron Mead (left) watches. Vandenkooy leads all Kitsap County troopers with 115 DUI arrests for the year. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Washington State Patrol trooper Scott Harter verfies a driver’s insurance while doing a vehicle stop. Friday, Dec. 16 was “Night of 1,000 stars” in Kitsap County to help cut down on DUI drivers. DUI 1 photo - Washington State Patrol Lieutenant Clint Casebolt inspecks the remains of a vehicle involved in a accident on Mullenix Rd Friday night. A driver under the influence of drugs and alcohal caused a three car collision. DUI 2 photo - Washington State Patrol oficers take pictures of the remains of a vehicle involved in a accident on Mullenix Rd Friday night. A driver under the influence of drugs and alcohal caused a three car collision. DUI 4 photo - Washington State Patrol officer Gill Vandenkooy does a field test on a driver. Vandenkooy leads all Kitsap County troopers with 115 DUI arrests for the year. DUI 5 photo - Washington State Patrol officer Gill Vandenkooy does a field test on a drunk driver while Sgt Ron Mead (right) watches. Vandenkooy leads all Kitsap County troopers with 115 DUI arrests for the year. DUI 6 photo - Washington State Patrol officer Gill Vandenkooy Arrestes a drunk driver while Sgt Ron Mead (right) watches. Vandenkooy leads all Kitsap County troopers with 115 DUI arrests for the year. DUI 6 photo - Washington State Patrol officer Gill Vandenkooy places a drunk driver in the back of his police car while Sgt Ron Mead (left) watches. Vandenkooy leads all Kitsap County troopers with 115 DUI arrests for the year.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Law enforcement agencies combined to make 17 arrests for DUI throughout Kitsap County on the “Night of 1,000 Stars,” the evening of Friday, Dec. 16 and morning of Saturday, Dec. 17.

The event was part of a statewide effort to emphasize getting drunk drivers off the roads this holiday season. The “1,000 Stars” title was selected in order to represent the concept of a thousand officers’ badges shining through the night, casting light on the problem of alcohol-related accidents that cause many fatalities across Washington state each year.

In Kitsap County, it served as an extension of monthly emphasis patrols that began in 1991 and cycle through the north, south and central areas of the county, according to police officials.

The night began with officers from Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Suquamish Tribal police departments, deputies of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and troopers from Washington State Patrol gathering at Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue Station 51 on Silverdale Way for a briefing before hitting the icy roads.

“You look at what we’ve done the past 30 years, it’s (helped),” said Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer of local agencies’ efforts. “(But) it’s a tough job.”

Boyer also praised the cooperation in this county between city, county and state law enforcement agencies.

Marsha Masters of the local Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter concurred.

“They never tell us no. They help us out with things, mock crashes at high schools ... youth conferences,” Masters said. “Prosecutors, law enforcement, they’ve all been helpful and understanding to the victims (of drunk driving).”

As Washington State Trooper Brian George began his patrol, he explained what he and other officers were looking for.

“Any and every violation,” George said. “Lane travel in particular is often an indication of DUI.”

George made seven relatively routine stops before responding to a stop made by another trooper just before 9 p.m. on State Route 303 near the intersection with Hanford Avenue.

A 32-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of DUI. In the back seat of her Jeep, a three-month-old infant lay asleep, oblivious to what had just taken place.

The troopers searched the vehicle, discovering a thermos-type mug containing beer and a pop bottle that had been emptied and also filled with alcohol.

Troopers started the SUV and turned on the heater for the sake of the sleeping child as temperatures outside hovered around freezing. As the child’s mother was transported for processing, the woman’s parents were called to pick up the vehicle with their grandchild. When they arrived, they indicated it was not their daughter’s first arrest.

Fortunately, in many cases, those arrested for DUI learn an important lesson the first time.

“The No. 1 cause of people seeking treatment for an alcohol problem is a DUI arrest,” said Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mike Merrill.

George explained that with DUI cases, the .08 legal limit is too often thought of as a magic number.

“The validity of BAC (blood alcohol content) measurement is often attacked in court,” he said. “We make an arrest based on whether the person is unsafe to be driving, we’re not worried about, ‘This guy’s going to blow over the limit.’”

George said that some people are going to be too impaired to drive at a lower level than .08 whereas “the law allows that at .08 or higher, you are impaired, period.”

The bottom line law enforcement intends to get across: Just let someone else do the driving if planning to drink this holiday season.

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