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Impaired drivers make holiday driving more dangerous

Phil Wright

East Oregonian

Published on November 16, 2017 12:01AM

Last changed on November 16, 2017 10:03PM


Pendleton police have made 119 arrests so far this year for driving under the influence. The department is on track for 136 arrests this year, just one less than 2016.

Hermiston police, however, have had a big drop in DUII arrests, with 50 so far this year compared to 90 for 2016. Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said impaired drivers are out there, but his department has had a hectic year.

“We have had two retirements, one new officer at the academy, one new lateral officer [an officer from another agency], two extended medical leaves of officers, and two officers attending the month-long supervisor training in Plano, Texas,” he said.

All the change, he said, helps account for the decline in arrests. But Hermiston police catching impaired drivers could take a quick tick up.

“Even though he had a lot of change, we will be out there in an overtime capacity working on grants specific to impaired driving this holiday season,” Edmiston said. “It’s still important for us to be proactive.”

He also said staff are settling into their new roles and the department is gaining traction after so much transition. But some shake-up is coming. Edmiston said he is rearranging team assignments for his officers. Having different officers work together, he said, is a benefit for the department.

Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts said while the number of DUII arrests from 2016 and this year are consistent, they are down from the 158 the department had in 2015. Like his Hermiston counterpart, Roberts said these fluctuations have more to do with staffing than a lack of intoxicated drivers.

Oregon law enforcement agencies made 3,915 arrests for DUII through the second quarter of this year, according to the “State Of Oregon Report Of Criminal Offenses And Arrests.” The statewide total for 2016 was 8,484 and 2015 was 7,987.

Crashes involving drunk drivers increases this time of year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 37,461 people died in traffic crashes in 2016, and 28 percent (10,497) of those fatalities were in crashes with a driver who had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit of .08 percent.

That same year, 781 people died in drunk-driving-related crashes in December alone. During Decembers from 2012-2016, the NHTSA reports 28 percent of crash fatalities — 3,995 people — involved a drunk driver.

Roberts urged folks who go out to drink to be aware of how alcohol affects the brain and plan accordingly. Often police encounter someone who does not plan on drinking, he said, but after a few decides to drive home. The effects of alcohol are not immediate and people think they are fine, he said, when alcohol is actually compromising their judgment and reaction time.

“Make arrangements for someone to pick you up,” Roberts said, “or have a designated driver.”

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

Pendleton and Hermiston police departments arrest totals for driving under the influence of intoxicants

Pendleton

2014 - 110

2015 - 158

2016 - 137

2017 - 119 (as of mid November)

Hermiston

2014 - 103

2015 - 83

2016 - 90

2017 - 50



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