Extra patrols will be out looking for impaired drivers throughout Whitman County and the rest of the state as part of the national "Drive Hammered, Get Nailed" campaign against driving under the influence.
The campaign starts Friday and will continue through Sept. 5.
“By the time a DUI driver gets caught, it’s rarely their first time driving drunk,” said Angie Ward, Washington Traffic Safety Commission program manager.
In Whitman Country, 334 people were charged with DUI in 2010, according to Washington’s Administrative Office of the Courts.
Ward explained that the campaign is an extra effort to catch more drunk drivers in addition to normal police patrols.
The campaign is federally funded and reimburses the expenses of local police departments to work additional shifts and patrols, she said. The funding comes from the portion of the revenue collected by the federal gas tax.
Funding was offered to every law enforcement office in the state of Washington that wanted to participate, Ward said.
The Whitman County Sheriffs’ Office and WSU Police Department are both taking part in the campaign, she said.
However, the Pullman Police Department will not be involved in the campaign, Commander Chris Tennant said.
“Typically, these types of campaigns are over a holiday period,” he said. “Like Memorial Day or the 4th of July.”
Tennant explained that during those time periods there is not enough manpower to fulfill the campaign. Another issue is the amount of money the police departments receive as reimbursement.
“We’re not talking about a lot of money,” he said. “Maybe about $2,000.”
Tennant said the Pullman Police Department has taken part in these types of campaigns in the past.
In addition to added patrols, Ward said, another important component of the campaign is awareness of the event.
“It’s equally important that people know about it, so they aren’t surprised when they see more patrols out on the streets,” she said.
The advertisements are intended to force people to plan ahead in arranging for taxis and designated drivers, she said.
“When people see someone pulled over at night, they assume it’s a DUI,” Ward said. “But when they see someone pulled over during the day, they assume it’s a speeding ticket.”
She said another issue is people often times do not know what to do if they see a drunk driver and are unsure whether a suspected DUI qualifies a 911 call.
“They are supposed to call 911,” she said. “Stay away from the driver, but do call 911.”
Sophomore music major Nathan Straub said campaigns like this one are important.
“I think (drunk driving is) a huge deal,” Straub said. “It’s putting yourself and others in danger.”
Straub said he once called 911 because he saw a driver who he suspected was driving drunk.
“It’s all about prevention,” junior pharmacy major Meleina Fraga said. “If you have friends going to drink and they don’t have a ride, someone should offer to be their designated driver.”