Night of 1,000 Stars remembers traffic crash fatalities, recognizes law enforcement officials

The Mobile Impaired Driving Unit is in Clark County this week as part of Target Zero’s emphasis patrols in search of impaired drivers. Photo by Paul Valencia
The Mobile Impaired Driving Unit is in Clark County this week as part of Target Zero’s emphasis patrols in search of impaired drivers. Photo by Paul Valencia

Target Zero and local agencies to have DUI emphasis patrols in the region through the holiday season

Paul Valencia
ClarkCountyToday.com

They gathered to remember.

They gathered to recognize.

And they gathered to prepare for a series of important, life-saving patrols for the remainder of the holiday season.

Law enforcement officials from throughout Southwest Washington took a couple of hours Friday evening to remember those who have died in traffic crashes, while honoring those who try to keep our roads safe.

It was part of the Night of 1,000 Stars ceremony, held this year at Washington State Patrol’s Vancouver office.

“I believe that every impaired driver we get off the roads is a life saved,” said Sean Donaldson of the Vancouver Police Department. 

It could be a literal life saved, by stopping a crash before it happens. Or the stop could be a life-saving moment for the driver, who begins the process of making a positive change.

The Night of 1,000 Stars is part of Target Zero, a statewide campaign with the goal to have zero deaths on state highways and roads by 2030.

The numbers are going the wrong way in recent years, Donaldson acknowledged.

“My hope is that we continue to combat the increase (in fatalities) with education, enforcement, and outreach,” Donaldson said, with a salute to the many law enforcement officers who speak at driver education classes, high schools, and other community events.

Many of those officers were recognized by their peers with awards for their professionalism. 

“This event is to acknowledge the hard work our dedicated law enforcement officers do all year,” said Jesamie Peters, a Target Zero manager. “Often it is a thankless job. We take this night to honor them.”

Washington State Patrol, Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Vancouver Police Department, and more law enforcement agencies gathered Friday night for Night of 1,000 Stars, to remember those who have died in traffic crashes and recognize law enforcement officials who are trying to keep the roads safe. Photo by Paul Valencia
Washington State Patrol, Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Vancouver Police Department, and more law enforcement agencies gathered Friday night for Night of 1,000 Stars, to remember those who have died in traffic crashes and recognize law enforcement officials who are trying to keep the roads safe. Photo by Paul Valencia

All in attendance watched a video with a theme: Every traffic stop matters.

It was a rallying cry to continue doing the difficult job, knowing that every stop could save a life.

Clark County District Court Judge Abigail Bartlett was one of the guest speakers. She discussed DUI offenders in her courtroom.

“At their sentencing hearings, we talk about how lucky they were to be stopped by law enforcement officers for a DUI that night,” Bartlett said.

She tells the offenders that things could have been much worse. Without the stops, impaired drivers could have crashed, injuring or killing others or themselves.

“Many of them use that arrest as a starting point to change their lives,” Bartlett said, describing the arrest as a “wake-up call.”

Repeat offenders need more than a wake-up call. That is what DUI Treatment Court is for, and Bartlett said the county has seen success in that program, as well.

“DUI Treatment Court is designed for repeat offenders who are a high risk to the community and in need of support and rehabilitation,” Bartlett said.

It is a 12-month minimum program but typically it takes between 14 months and 18 months to graduate. It is demanding and intentionally difficult to endure the process, but those who do become better citizens, the judge said.

Also at Night of 1,000 Stars was the Mobile Impaired Driving Unit, a very large Recreational Vehicle that has been turned into a DUI processing center.

Sgt. Sue Harbour of the Washington State Patrol drove from Bellevue to Vancouver on Friday to have the mobile unit ready for this weekend’s emphasis patrol in Clark County. The unit has a breathalyzer, other high-tech equipment, and even holding cells for impaired drivers.

After Friday’s ceremony, many of the law enforcement officials from various agencies throughout Clark County met to go over their plans for this weekend’s emphasis patrols, on the lookout for drivers under the influence. The added patrols will be on the roads throughout the holiday season.

Target Zero also has advice for all this holiday season, not just those in law enforcement.

  • Before celebrating, plan for a safe and sober ride home.
  • Intervene. Prevent someone from getting behind the wheel if they have used alcohol or drugs.
  • Offer to be a designated driver.
  • Hosts of parties should make sure guests have a sober ride home or a safe place to stay.
  • If you see an impaired driver, call 911. 

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