Extra DUI patrols planned for New Year

Mid-Columbians planning to ring in 2012 at a New Year's Eve party, singing Auld Lang Syne and celebrating with champagne also better plan on having a designated driver to get them home.

Law enforcement officers in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Benton County, Franklin County and along state highways in the Tri-Cities will be participating in extra patrols during the New Year's holiday, looking for drivers under the influence of alcohol.

"If a person is choosing to go out and consume alcoholic beverages, have a plan, don't drink and drive because there will be plenty of officers out looking for impaired drivers," said Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin.

The extra patrols will cap off the statewide Holiday DUI Patrol enforcement that began on Thanksgiving. Participating agencies get money through the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission to conduct the extra patrols.

The goal is to prevent fatal accidents or serious-injury collisions related to impaired drivers.

Last year, officers took 145 drunken drivers off Tri-City roads during the special Holiday DUI patrols.

Last year, 27 people were jailed during the New Year's weekend on suspicion of driving under the influence, but city officers said many drivers opted to celebrate the New Year right by using designated drivers or hiring taxis or limousines to get home safely.

This past Christmas weekend, there were no traffic deaths linked to impaired driving and traffic officials hope that trend carries on through the end of the year.

"We'll keep fingers crossed and keep patrols out looking," said Mike Aldridge, Benton Franklin Traffic Safety Commission's Target Zero manager. "Hopefully people will take the smart route and either stay at home if they're drinking or take a cab home from wherever they are partying."

Target Zero is the state's goal to have no traffic deaths related to impaired driving, speed or unbuckled occupants by 2030.