Ride along on a DUI emphasis patrol

Every holiday weekend we report on DUI emphasis patrols whose sole purpose is to remove impaired drivers from the road. Last weekend we got to see them in action.

State Patrol Trooper Jeff Leonard is a member of the Target Zero team. The task force is made up of state, county and city police officers whose goal is to eliminate highway deaths by the year 2030.

These officers look for the telltale signs of impaired driving – slight weaving, uneven braking or slow response to traffic signals. Even simple violations – like a burned out headlight or speeding – can lead to a drunk driving arrest.

Trooper Leonard started his patrol on Highway 99 and the night began uneventfully — a couple of stops of speeding and a few more for burned out headlights. On two of the stops there is enough evidence for Trooper Leonard to request the driver perform field sobriety tests. Both drivers pass the test and are sent on their way.

It was that way for the next several hours. But as any member of the Target Zero team will tell you, a slow night is a good night. It means people are getting the message about the dangers of drunk driving.

About 2:45 a.m. a driver nearly sideswiped Trooper Leonard’s patrol car on northbound I-5 just south of 44th in Lynnwood. He turned on his lights and the car pulled over.

He approached the driver, a 31-year-old man, talked to him for a few minutes, then asked him to perform a series of field sobriety tests (which can be seen in the video.)

After that, there is enough evidence to ask the driver to submit to a portable Breathalyzer test. He declined, so he is placed under arrest, read his rights and put in the back of the car.

Washington has an implied consent law. When you get your license, you have given consent to submit to a Breathalyzer. If you refuse, your license will be suspended for at least a year.

The driver admitted that he had been drinking earlier in the night, but claimed he swerved because he dozed off at the wheel. The driver believed he was under the legal limit but said any blood alcohol level – even if it’s under .08 – could cost him his job.

He was taken to the Lynnwood Jail for processing and his car is towed away. One more suspected drunk driver off the road.

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