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Suspected drunken drivers stopped

Lawmen patrolling Summit County roads Labor Day weekend arrested at least 15 people on drunken-driving charges, an operation that involved four agencies and was especially aggressive on Park City-area roads.

According to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office:

The Utah Highway Patrol accounted for nine of the arrests and bookings into the Summit County Jail.

The Sheriff’s Office arrested and booked three people.

The Park City Police Department arrested and booked two people.

The Kamas Police Department arrested and booked one person.

Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said the actual number might be higher since not everybody arrested on drunken-driving charges is booked into the jail. Some are released at the scene to a responsible party instead of being brought to the Silver Summit jail.

"That’s a large number of DUIs, 15, over a weekend," Edmunds said.

During a typical weekend, the jail would handle four or five drunken-driving bookings, the sheriff said.

The Park City Police Department, meanwhile, said six people were arrested on drug charges and another person was arrested on an unspecified felony count. Park City police officers and Utah Highway Patrol troopers stopped 211 drivers on Friday night, the police said.

Local law-enforcement agencies had publicized their plans for a drunken-driving crackdown over the holiday weekend. Labor Day weekend, which is celebrated as Miners Day in Park City, is usually a busy three days in the Park City area. It is also busy in the mountains and reservoirs on the East Side of Summit County.

"There were a lot of arrests made," Edmunds said.

Phil Kirk, a Park City police captain, said officers in his agency aggressively patrolled the S.R.224 and S.R. 248 entryways, Deer Valley Drive and other streets. He said the operation netted more arrests than in past drunken-driving stings.

"Getting them off the road may have saved lives — theirs and other people," Kirk said.

He said officers pulled drivers over for traffic violations and checked if the driver was drunk. If the person was not, officers generally gave the driver a warning. Kirk said law-enforcement leaders wanted officers to return to their patrols instead of spending time writing tickets for minor traffic offenses.

Kirk acknowledged the Police Department made more arrests than he anticipated. Drunken-driving arrests during similar operations had been falling, he said.

"There were higher numbers than we probably expected this year. We’ve seen the numbers going down," Kirk said.

Art Brown, who is the president of the Utah chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, praised the operation, saying "high visibility" enforcement prevents fatal crashes.

"When that happens, you get a reduction in the number of drunk-driving trips," he said about the operation, adding that traffic deaths are reduced by 17 percent during similar crackdowns.

Taxi drivers assisted the police over the holiday weekend by offering people who were intoxicated free rides the next day to retrieve their cars if they took a taxi home. A not-for-profit called Taxis Against Drunk Driving offers the program.

Audie Wheeler, the founder, said 30 people used Taxis Against Drunk Driving over the weekend, with nine of them requesting the free rides back to their car. Most of the people got taxis on Main Street, he said.

However, Wheeler said the numbers Labor Day weekend were down 50 percent from the previous year, and the number of people using the service was down throughout the summer. He said people might be complacent and Main Street might not have been as busy in the summer as it was in past years.

Wheeler, though, said Taxis Against Drunk Driving drivers continue their efforts to reduce the number of drunken drivers, including talking to staffers in nightclubs about the service.

"Our role is more proactive. We’re going into the bars, seeing the bartenders, doormen," he said.


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