Think twice before driving home from that particularly boozy holiday party. Police say they are pulling over drunken drivers in record numbers in Snohomish County and elsewhere...

Share story

Think twice before driving home from that particularly boozy holiday party. Police say they are pulling over drunken drivers in record numbers in Snohomish County and elsewhere, a result of stepped-up patrols.

“There are a tremendous amount of troopers on the roadway at night focusing on DUIs,” State Patrol spokesman Lance Ramsay said.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The number of troopers patrolling between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., when most drunken drivers are on the road, has been increased by nearly 50 percent through early January, Ramsay said. That has netted an increase in arrests by the State Patrol, he added.

In Snohomish, Skagit, Island and Whatcom counties, the Patrol’s arrests for driving under the influence of an intoxicant rose from 479 in November 2003 to 550 last month, a 15 percent increase.

Similarly, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office reported 127 DUI arrests in October, up from 32 DUI arrests in October 2003. The Sheriff’s Office places a large emphasis on cracking down on drunken driving, especially during the holiday months, said spokesman Rich Niebusch.

“We will be stepping up patrols with extra deputies throughout the county,” he said.

To cover the cost of extra patrols in the holiday season, the State Patrol, the Sheriff’s Office and other police agencies receive money for additional overtime from the state Traffic Safety Commission through a special enforcement program that began last month.

Mark Medalen, a spokesman for the commission, said the program is working.

“Overall traffic deaths and serious injuries that are alcohol- related are down in Washington,” he said. “We attribute that to education, which is backed up by enforcement.”

The program — “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed” — is in its second year, and $300,000 is being spent for extra patrols statewide, including $37,000 in Snohomish County.

The Traffic Safety Commission also spends up to $100,000 worth of federal money on billboards, radio spots and bus advertisements in an effort to change drivers’ behavior, Medalen said.

Even so, that’s not stopping a lot of partygoers.

“Many people are going to four different parties on four different weekends,” Ramsay said. “There’s going to be a lot of drinking and driving out there in the month of December and the first part of January.”

Brandon Sprague: 464-783-0604 or bsprague@seattletimes.com