Campaign shows low DUI rate in Palouse

Pullman Police issue a average of about 10 DUI’s per month, with more in August and September.

By Justin Runquist

Police officers arrested thousands of people in the statewide “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed” campaign this winter, but only a handful of those arrests came from the Palouse.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission funded the campaign, which ran from Nov. 25 to Jan.2. During that span, extra patrols scoured hot spots for impaired drivers at prime times of the night. In total, officers took 3,577 drivers into custody on suspicion of DUI. Karen Wigen, the Target Zero manager of the Spokane County Traffic Safety Task Force, said Whitman County accounted for eight of those in that period. However, from the beginning of January 2010 to the end of October, Whitman County had 266 DUI arrests, Wigen said.

Whitman County deputies shared the duty of patrolling State Route 270, Highway 195 and Pullman streets with officers from the WSU Police Department and the Washington State Patrol. The Pullman Police Department opted out of the campaign this time, despite participating in August 2010.

With few people left in town after the exodus of students for the holidays, adding special patrols for DUIs seemed like overkill, Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said.

“Our calls for service go down,” Tennant said. “So, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.” On average, Pullman Police issue about 10 DUIs per month, with a total of 125 DUIs in 2010, Tennant said. When departments sign up for the campaign, they join it for the entire year. Unlawful activity for Pullman is highest during the first couple months of fall semester and the spring when the weather heats up, he said. “August and September are big activity months all around,” Tennant said.

He said part of the campaign this year focused on nighttime patrols and making sure people wear their seatbelts — an issue which he said did not seem prevalent enough to warrant extra attention for that period. Tennant said the department will evaluate whether to partake next year when news of what it will entail comes out. The department will not participate in the upcoming March campaign, as it opted out for the entire year.

In comparison to Whitman County, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department worked with several police departments and the Washington State Patrol in an area of much higher activity. The departments arrested 168 people for suspicion of DUI during the campaign, Wigen said. This number is comparable to the results of the previous year, she said. WSU Police Officer Matt Kuhrt said the WSU Police had four patrols from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. each during the campaign. His department will participate in the next campaign, coming up in March. “You don’t want to put too much emphasis on one area,” Kuhrt said. Off the top of his head, he was not sure how many DUIs the department issues outside of the campaign. “When there are people out specifically targeting traffic violations, there will be extra stops,” he said.

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The Daily Evergreen is Washington State University's student-run newspaper.
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