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UHP honors efforts of its anti-DUI squad

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The Utah Highway Patrol's Drug Interdiction Squad made 1,264 DUI arrests in 2003, nearly doubling its number from the year before.

Friday, the Highway Patrol recognized the efforts of its DUI squad during a brief ceremony.

A total of 4,186 DUI arrests were made by the Utah Highway Patrol statewide in 2003. The interdiction squad accounted for 30 percent of those. A total of 14,268 DUI arrests were made last year by all of the state's law enforcement agencies.

Forty-one percent of traffic fatalities nationwide and 23 percent in Utah last year were the result of DUI, said UHP Maj. Neil Porter.

Although the numbers are relatively low locally, "even a single life lost to drunk driving is too much," he said.

While a growing population equals more drunken drivers, Porter mostly attributes the increase in arrests to the squad's efforts.

"These troopers put a priority on finding impaired drivers," Porter said.

Thursday night alone, UHP troopers arrested nine drivers suspected of driving drunk.

Trooper Iven Taufa arrested 120 drunken drivers in 2003 himself. That was actually down from his total of 190 in 2002.

"It's not surprising," he said of the numbers of drunken drivers he arrests. "It's sad to see that."

Contrary to the theory that drunken driving occurs most often on the weekends, Taufa said he sees it just as much, and sometimes worse, on Sundays and Mondays.

"It's seven days a week in Utah," he said.

Taufa has been on the DUI squad for eight years. His biggest motivation is his own five children, whom he wants to protect when they are on the freeway.

UHP Lt. Fred Swain said he often hears DUI drivers complain about how they can't afford tickets or the subsequent increase in car insurance costs, and he hears club owners who say heavy patrols near their bars hurt business.

"But the voices we hear the most are family members of DUI victims. That's what really matters to us," he said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving president Art Brown said for every 200 drunken-driving arrests, there is at least one death and 30 injury accidents.

"We ask you to reconsider your decision to drink and drive," Brown said, addressing the state's drunken drivers. He added that those who drink and drive "devalue life" and "don't respect" where they live.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com