My husband is a sergeant with the Utah Highway Patrol. He recently responded to a courageous citizen who reported a drunken driver. The driver was subsequently arrested. My husband describes how it began.
"I was on night patrol about 9 p.m. Thursday near the Jordanelle Dam. Dispatch notified me on my car radio that a cellular caller was following a possible drunken driver near Parleys Summit. The suspect was weaving and nearly hit her and another car. I was 15 miles away as I started toward Parleys Summit."The caller continued to follow at a safe distance and relay the suspect's location to dispatch. My husband explains what he thought while he was driving.
"I was hoping to catch the suspect before we lost him or he crashed. The man's speed was between 35 and 80 miles per hour which is another drunk-driving cue."
The caller reported the suspect exited I-80 and drove to Jeremy Ranch, stopping at a gas station, giving my husband time to get closer. The impaired driver left and drove toward Park City with my husband still five miles away. My husband explains. "As I took the freeway exit and drove toward Park City I knew I was getting closer. Then I saw the suspect and the citizen following. I pulled between the caller and the suspect's car to observe the driving pattern. The driver was straddling the left lane marker, another drunk-driving cue. When he swerved to the right lane marker I pulled him over.
"I administered the sobriety test. He couldn't stand on one leg without losing his balance and had trouble following instructions. His physical appearance was sloppy, with his shirt half tucked into his pants. He looked depressed with his sagging facial muscles and bloodshot eyes. The suspect's blood alcohol content was 0.15, twice the legal limit."
"I arrested the suspect for driving under the influence of alcohol. This was his second DUI arrest in a short period of time. I took the driver to jail and impounded his car. The driver is on probation for other crimes so his probation officer was notified. Because this woman reported this driver, people were safer that Thursday night in Summit County. In fact, in the past two days three out of five DUI arrests on our crew are from citizen calls."
This story is an example of a person who made a difference because she cared enough to get involved and help the police. She is a good Samaritan. She personifies a program my husband and I started two years ago called Freeway Watch, a neighborhood watch on wheels. Our goal is to urge citizens to report drunken drivers to the police.
We named the organization Freeway Watch in honor of a teenager who was killed on the freeway by a drunken driver. My husband was the investigating officer for the crash. The name Freeway Watch reminds us to strive to prevent the kind of tragedy that happened that day on the freeway by urging citizens to watch for drunken drivers and call 911 to report the problem wherever they spot them.
A Freeway Watch public awareness campaign will be broadcast beginning this summer on the top two metro stations, FM 100 and Arrow 103.5.
There are other Good Samaritans in Utah. For instance, the Salt Lake City Police Department volunteer mobile watch. Recently officers trained these citizens how to identify drunken driving patterns and use the license plate and car color to identify the vehicle so police can locate the suspect. The group plans an anti-drunken driving watch for May 11 in concert with other police agencies. Here are some drunken driving patterns the officers taught. They are easy to remember because they spell the word WATCH: Weaves. Almost hits a car. Tires follow the painted lane lines. Cuts corners close and turns wide. Headlights off at night.
Memorial Day Weekend is hazardous for drivers because of the high number of alcohol-related crashes. On average, two people are killed each day in Utah during that weekend. The Salt Lake mobile "watchers" are sending a message their town does not tolerate drunken drivers. Drunken drivers, they've got your number, too: 911.