Black Friday proves costly for drunk drivers in Pierce County

Despite warnings that law enforcement throughout Pierce County would be out in force at the start of the holiday season, more than 40 drivers failed to heed the warning and found themselves arrested for DUI Friday night along Pierce County roadways. The upside however was that no serious crashes occurred anywhere in the county Friday night.

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) in partnership with city and county law enforcement agencies in Pierce County sponsored a countywide DUI emphasis in Pierce County on “Black Friday.” The goal was simple: make the roadways safer for those using the roads and highways and help ensure no family suffers the loss of a loved one.

The emphasis was dedicated to the memory of Kelsey Parrett, a young 15 year old girl that was struck and killed by an impaired driver in April of this year as she was walking along the shoulder of a road in Milton. Officers listened to Kelsey’s parents during the multiagency briefing describe the devastating impact of losing their daughter. Even veteran police officers were touched at listening to Jason Glassburn describe the impact of his step-daughter’s death both to his family and her friends. It’s hoped that no more friends or families will have to face a tragedy like Kelsey’s caused by drivers that choose to drink and then make the choice to drive. To date, 31 people have died in collisions investigated by the WSP in Pierce County — 20 of which were alcohol related. That’s 20 deaths that would have been prevented with better choices.

Friday night was also the kick-off of the annual “Tow to Go” program sponsored by local towing firms throughout Pierce County. The program ensures that drivers and their vehicles are provided a ride home from a drinking establishment. Captain Jeff DeVere, local district commander of the WSP commended the “Tow to Go” program. “This program shows the positive effect community involvement can have in reducing incidents of drunk driving. Law enforcement alone can’t end the carnage caused by drunk driving and programs like this will help us achieve our goal of eliminating fatal and disabling injuries by the year 2030,” said DeVere. One note about the program – bartenders are required to be the ones calling the tow. The program will continue through New Year’s Eve.

Preliminary numbers show nearly 300 people were stopped for various traffic violations and 41 people were arrested for DUI during this emphasis. In addition to the WSP, agencies participating were Tacoma PD, Puyallup PD, Gig Harbor PD, Fife PD, Steilacoom DPS, Sumner PD, Dupont PD, and Milton PD along with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Combined, more than 40 officers were on the streets targeting drunk drivers.

It is the goal of law enforcement in Washington state to have zero fatalities and disabling injuries by the year 2030. Friday night was just the start of increased emphasis patrols that will run through New Year’s. WSP’s Captain DeVere has a simple reminder this holiday season: “If you drive hammered, you will get nailed.”