Washington State Patrol troopers as well as local law enforcement officers arrested about 3,400 suspected drunken drivers during the first half of a two-year, federally-funded campaign against intoxicated drivers.
The arrests were made by the members of three Target Zero teams, which operate in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.
The first year of the Target Zero Teams also saw a reduction of fatal car crashes when compared to each of the previous five years. An average of 203 people died in crashes in each of the previous years in the three counties. In the year since Target Zero launched July 1, 2010, the number of fatally crashes has dropped to 133.
“These are real numbers that represent real people,” State Patrol Chief John Batiste said during a press briefing this morning. “That’s 70 times we haven’t had to knock on someone’s door to say a loved one is dead.”
The Target Zero campaign is a two-year project funded by a $6 million grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The project ends June 30, 2012.
Six State Patrol troopers and one sergeant are assigned full time to each of three Target Zero teams. They are assisted – when time and resources allow – by local law enforcement 0fficers. Members of the teams are out each night, looking for suspected drunken drivers. They patrol not only on the state highways but also city streets and county roadways.
The teams use mapping software to focus their enforcement efforts on areas where drunken driving crashes have occurred in the past.
During Thursday’s press briefing, leaders said the multi-agency, highly-visible strategy seems to be working. They point to the reduction of traffic-related deaths in the first year.
“It has really exceeded our expectations of this project,” said Lowell Porter, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
Porter noted that while the Target Zero teams contributed significantly to the reduction, other programs and enforcement efforts also are helping.
“We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to save lives,” Porter said.