'Target Zero' nets dozens of DUI arrests

Using a designated driver or calling a cab to avoid driving after drinking is catching on in Puyallup and nearby communities where, since July 1, full-time Target Zero Teams have been arresting impaired drivers.

Those arrested from July 1 to July 15 have included 66 who were arrested for DUI, three who were arrested for reckless endangerment because they had children ages 2-7 in the car, and three for whom officers had to obtain warrants for blood draws because the drivers refused a breath test.

Signs that more drivers were making plans to get home safely after a night of drinking began to appear towards the end of the team’s two-week deployment to Puyallup. Officers reported as many as one out of five vehicles, especially after midnight, were being driven by designated drivers in the Puyallup area targeted by the team.

Additionally, the ABB Taxi Company in Puyallup said it experienced an uptick in business ever since the Target Zero Team began targeting River Road, SR 167, SR 512 and the City of Puyallup, where 18 people have been killed in impaired-driving crashes between 2005 and 2009.

Some bars in Puyallup where patrons observed drivers being arrested on nearby roads invited the team’s officers to hand out information cards about their life-saving efforts, which has led to more calls for taxis, said Sgt. Ray Schierhoff of the Washington State Patrol.

That drivers are using alternative transportation, said Puyallup Police Sgt. Bob Thompson, is evidenced by the increase in the number of cars he sees still parked at Puyallup bars and taverns on Saturday and Sunday mornings since the two-year enforcement project kicked off a month ago.

“Our current multi-agency effort to remove impaired drivers from the road does not involve a one-night stand. We’re here for the long haul,” said John Cheesman, chief of the Fircrest Police Department and chairman of the Tacoma Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force.

The Task Force’s member agencies are working with the Washington State Patrol over the next two years to curb impaired driving fatalities in Pierce County by as much as 40 percent. The State Patrol has dedicated six full-time troopers to the team, and 11 local law enforcement agencies contribute an additional two or three officers each night.

Participants in Pierce County’s Target Zero Team include the Fife, Bonney Lake, Sumner, Puyallup, Milton, Lakewood, Tacoma, Orting, University Place and Edgewood police departments and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.