Annual holiday safety campaign kicks off
Washington state�s annual �Tie One on for Safety� campaign for the 2003 holiday season was launched in Bellingham Tuesday.�
Blaine police officers joined over 50 members of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), the Washington traffic safety commission, and other officers from all Whatcom County law enforcement agencies at the Squalicum boat house to hear presentations from DUI victims and their families, and to hand out the traditional red antenna ribbons which support the DUI enforcement and education campaign.
For the period between 1993 and 2000, Whatcom County has had the highest rate of DUI related fatalities in western Washington, and the sixth highest rate in the state. To combat this deadly trend, all local, county, state and tribal police agencies in Whatcom County will be working together county-wide in roving teams over the next several weeks, targeting seat belt and DUI enforcement.�
The state�s traffic safety commission has earmarked $30,000 for Whatcom County police agencies to help defray the cost of over 600 patrol hours of increased traffic enforcement.�These extra patrols will be on the road countywide until after the New Year�s holiday.
Statewide, over 150 police agencies will be participating in the holiday DUI enforcement effort, and they are hoping to make this one of the safest holiday seasons ever. Officers learned that in January the MADD organization will be sponsoring an initiative to make a driver�s�third DUI offense a felony.�Currently Washington is one of only a handful of states with no felony penalty level for serious repeat DUI offenders.�
Sheriff Bill Elfo gave a special plea to those present to work with their local elected officials to support a new jail facility for Whatcom County: currently booking restrictions due to a lack of space prohibit the jail from accepting DUI arrestees. Some suspects have been arrested three or more times in the same day for DUI as there is no means of keeping them off the street in Whatcom County.