Lawmen plan DUI crackdown
Art Brown normally does not deliver pizzas.
On Friday night, though, he will be a delivery boy for lawmen in Summit County as they stake out area roads looking for drunken drivers.
Brown, the president of the Utah chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and top local law-enforcement officials say Labor Day weekend is typically busy for officers patrolling the roads. They say that people celebrating the end of summer frequently drink alcohol and then drive.
"During Labor Day weekend, many people travel and many people celebrate as the last big holiday in the summer," Brown says, describing Summit County, with its mountains and reservoirs, as a popular spot for the holiday weekend. "Many people celebrate up there. It’s impossible for law enforcement to be behind every drunk driver."
In Summit County, the Sheriff’s Office, the Park City Police Department and the Utah Highway Patrol will team for a drunken-driving blitz, patrolling roads with extra officers.
Phil Kirk, a lieutenant in the Police Department, says the operation is scheduled to start at 10 p.m. Friday and last through 2 a.m. on Saturday. He expects 25 officers to be on patrol between Summit and Wasatch counties.
"I’m hoping we have fewer impaired drivers out there," Kirk says. "Our measure is not necessarily how many arrests we make."
He says that the Friday crackdown will set a tone for the rest of the holiday weekend. State agencies reimburse the local departments for the extra costs, Kirk says.
Kirk expects that Park City officers assigned to the operation will be patrolling primary roads like the S.R. 224 and S.R. 248 entryways.
"It’s the traditional end-of-the-summer bash. Nationwide, we see a lot of accidents, a lot of impaired drivers," he says.
Sheriff Dave Edmunds, meanwhile, says that the number of drunken drivers on local roads during the Labor Day weekend is comparable to that of New Year’s Eve.
"Historically, Labor Day weekend is one of the top two driving under the influence holidays we have," Edmunds says, adding, "It’s been a big death and carnage situation."
He says that, in the past, drunken driving in Summit County was largely limited to the Park City area but recently it has become problematic throughout the county.
"The problem areas are all over the county anymore," Edmunds says.
He says he wants additional patrols over Labor Day weekend along S.R. 150, known as the Mirror Lake Highway through the Uintas. The highway follows a twisting route and cattle are allowed to roam free along part of the route.
"It’s difficult to navigate when you’re sober," Edmunds says.
Brown from MADD notes the tragic drunken-driving accident in Park City that badly injured Ana Bussmann during the Sundance Film Festival in 2003 as he talks about accidents and their effects.
"It can happen anywhere at any time," he says.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency, says that, nationally in 2005, 240 people were killed over Labor Day weekend in crashes in which alcohol was a factor. Alcohol was a factor in about 47 percent of the traffic deaths over Labor Day weekend in 2005, the agency reports.
Drunken-driving charges are typically prosecuted as class B misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. More serious charges can be filed against someone facing a drunken-driving count if someone is injured in a crash or if the driver has been convicted of such crimes before.
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Tourism revenue increased month over month this summer, the Park City Chamber/Bureau reported, but lodging numbers are still off 22% for December. Officials reported a recent uptick in bookings, though, pointing to a modicum of certainty after ski resorts announced their COVID-related opening policies.