DUI patrols to increase

With Labor Day and the end of summer just around the corner, law enforcement officers are stepping up patrols to take impaired drivers off the streets.

A special enforcement patrol targeting drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs starts today and runs through Sept. 5.

Extra patrols will be conducted by the Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland and Prosser police departments, the Benton County and Franklin County sheriff's offices and the Washington State Patrol.

About 10,000 agencies in across the country will be participating in the annual Drive Hammered, Get Nailed campaign.

Last year, 10 people in the Tri-Cities died in DUI crashes. There also were 1,540 charged with DUIs in Benton and Franklin counties.

Through June, there have been 482 charges in Benton County for misdemeanor DUIs and 197 in Franklin County, according to statistics from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Impaired drivers arrested by police also will get their vehicles automatically impounded now because of a new law that took effect July 22.

Halley's Law requires police to tow and impound a car for at least 12 hours after arresting the driver for a suspected DUI.

Only a registered or legal owner who was not in the car at the time of the arrest is allowed to get the vehicle out of an impound lot before the mandatory 12 hours is up.

"This new law helps eliminate the danger of drunk drivers getting back into their cars and putting everyone at risk," said Lowell Porter, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. "Now all drunk drivers face the costs of towing and impound, in addition to jail time, losing their driver's license and the high cost of a DUI."