Increased patrols will not only operate in evening, but will start midday
CLARK COUNTY — With Super Bowl LV this weekend, the Target Zero program from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) has allocated resources for Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), Battle Ground Police Department (BGPD), and Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to conduct extra DUI patrols.
Target Zero emphasis patrols are used to reduce the number of traffic fatalities that occur on days of the year where driving infractions are higher. Historically, traffic accidents involving a driver impaired by either alcohol or drugs have been more numerous on Super Bowl weekend as opposed to others.
Target Zero is a statewide program with the goal of eliminating traffic related fatalities in Washington by the year 2030, and is the conduit that funds added patrols directly by assembling the multi-agency task force. The program is funded through state grant money.
In addition to the Super Bowl element, the high-visibility patrols will focus on decreasing the number of DUIs occurring early in the day by starting earlier themselves. Sgt. Alex Schoening with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office explained how over the course of his decades-long career he’s witnessed this often deadly phenomenon.
“One of the things that I think has been trending as far as impaired drivers go for the last several years, is the amount of impaired drivers that we see during daylight or morning hours,” Schoening said. “I would say earlier in my career, we would focus on the hours of between 10 and four in the morning. After bars close, historically has had higher driving under the influence of intoxicants type of times of day, statistically, and that is that I believe that has shifted.”
Schoening explained how just last week, officers with the BGPD stopped a person driving dangerously at about 11 a.m. The individual was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.25. As a comparison and reminder, the legal limit is 0.08.
Schoening also pointed out that while there has never been a good excuse for driving under the influence, now they’re really is absolutely none with how readily available ride-sharing is. Uber and Lyft are now highly active throughout Clark County, and many drivers are people out of work due to the pandemic so you would actually be supporting someone, he said.
With the legalization and more Widespread availability of marijuana, determining what substance is impairing someone driving unsafely, is more important than ever Toll enforcement agencies. To that end, officers and deputies trained in substance identification and Phlebotomy are readily available across agencies.
If a blood test is needed to determine the substance causing impairment, it is always voluntary, but can be obtained through a court order. Schoening also mentioned that Many of the classic identifiers and methods for confirming a DUI have remained the same over the years, with the exception of the touching-your-nose-drill.
“The officer of today versus the officer of even 15 years ago, is being trained to detect more of the commonly used impairing substances,” Schoening said. “Things like the ARIDE course, (the acronym is for Advanced Roadside Impairment Detection and Enforcement), so that those officers are equipped via ARIDE training to detect a wider spectrum of impairing substances that would lead them to consult a drug recognition expert to go other avenues than just a simple breath test.”
When it comes to the pandemic reducing the number of people on the roads in general, and also the number of people congregating to watch something like the Super Bowl, CCSO has not seen a significant reduction in traffic collisions, fatalities or DUIs.
The number of collisions that resulted in a fatality and were found to be caused by one or both drivers being impaired, the recent statistic of around 55 percent has remained steady, Schoening said. In other words, the reduction in traffic flow resulting from COVID-19 restrictions, has not resulted in less dangerous drivers.
As far as different holidays or events seen by law enforcement and Target Zero as candidates for additional enforcement, there is not a great distinction in the causes of impairment during each, Schoening explained. Whether it be alcohol, drugs, tiredness, or distracted driving, the reasons remain homogenous.
“I think it’s the human trend on those types of occasions, holidays, or in this case, the Super Bowl, is to unwind and relax,” he said. “I would invite folks to really enjoy the game, and if they choose to imbibe a legal substance that can be impairing it’s so easy these days to get a ride share or to get a ride home. Please do not risk yourself and somebody else driving impaired. Just don’t do it.”