Originally Published: December 21, 2009 11:01 p.m.
The Governor's Office on Highway Safety has a simple message for people celebrating with family and friends this season: "Drive hammered... get nailed."
Prescott-area law enforcement agencies have arrested 88 people on driving under the influence charges from Thursday, Nov. 26, through Sunday, Dec. 20, this year, said Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor's Office on Highway Safety. The task force continues until New Year's Eve, Gutier said.
"These officers have prevented at least 88 tragedies from happening," Gutier said. "The officers are trying to keep everyone safe."
Yavapai County Sheriff's deputies arrested 30 people on DUI charges, Prescott Valley police 27, Prescott 26 and Chino Valley five, since the holiday DUI task force kicked off Thanksgiving Day, Gutier said.
The Governor's Office on Highway Safety provides agencies with federal money for overtime for officers working on DUI enforcement, officer training, and equipment such as motorcycles to use in DUI enforcement, Gutier said.
"We will be putting more patrols on the streets at night to specifically target drunk driving through the holiday season," said Sgt. Brandon Bonney, public information officer and crisis negotiations supervisor for the Prescott Valley Police Department.
Chino Valley police as well as the Sheriff's Office will do the same.
"If they are drinking and driving, we will be out there in force," said Officer Brian Sanders, field training officer for the Chino Valley police.
"Deputies will concentrate on saturation patrols specifically to find and arrest DUI offenders," said Dwight D'Evelyn, media and crime prevention coordinator for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office. "They tend to know the hot spots really well."
"Instead of risking DUI, people should use a designated sober driver, take a taxi or public transportation, or simply make a choice not to consume alcohol or drugs and drive," D'Evelyn said.
Prescott police will increase DUI enforcement patrols and also join Prescott Valley and Chino police departments in the Tri-City DUI task force, said Lt. Clayton Heath, public information officer with the Prescott Police Department.
This year officers arrested 3,074 people on DUI charges out of the 50,493 traffic stops officers initiated during the statewide holiday DUI task force, Gutier said.
"This time of year, people forget they shouldn't drink and drive," Gutier said. "They need to get a designated driver."
"For the first time this year, we're asking law enforcement to provide us with the number of sober designated drivers they come in contact with," Gutier said. "So far, we've counted 801 statewide."
Chino Valley police officers haven't seen a noticeable increase in DUIs during the holidays, but officers have arrested more people for extreme DUIs, Sanders said.
A person with an extreme DUI registers a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or above, nearly twice the blood alcohol content of 0.08 for a regular DUI, Sanders said.
That follows statewide trends, where the average blood alcohol content for people arrested is 0.157 during this holiday task force period, Gutier said.
In comparison, officers arrested 4,078 people on extreme DUI charges so far in 2009, with 3,302 in all of 2008, Gutier said.
"Most people we stop know they're in trouble and shouldn't be drinking and driving," Sanders said. "They're cooperative and understand the situation they're in."
The consequences for a first-time DUI offender include paying an estimated $1,800 in fines, additional court assessments, jail costs, costs to hire an attorney, increased auto insurance premiums, possible loss of employment, as long as 10 days in jail, five years probation, a 90-day driver's license suspension, and a vehicle ignition interlock device for a year, Gutier said.
"A DUI stays on your record for seven years," Gutier said. "If you're pulled over again for DUI, officers will see your previous DUI."
Extreme DUI or repeat offenses can lead to even more serious consequences, Gutier said.
A second DUI can lead to $3,500 in court fines, 90 days in jail, driver's license revoked for a year with no option for a work permit, five years probation, and a vehicle ignition interlock device for a year after the driver's license is reinstated, Gutier said.
"People don't think it will happen to them, well if you drink and drive, it will happen to you," Gutier said.