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Utah DUI arrests over New Year’s holiday double that of last year

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Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Andrew Battenfield discusses the number of DUI arrests over the New Year’s holiday during an interview on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.

John Wilson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The final numbers for DUI arrests over the New Year’s holiday in Utah doubled over last year’s figures, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.

UHP troopers made 39 DUI arrests from New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day. Last year, there were 20 arrests, and 34 the year before. 

UHP officials said the increase doesn’t necessarily mean more people were drinking over the holiday this year, but it’s a statistic they’re still not happy with.

“There is a lot of data that goes into that,” said UHP Cpl. Andrew Battenfield. “I know we have more troopers on the road this year than we had last year, and we may have found more DUIs than last year.

Troopers said the holiday arrests came around the same time two deadly crashes occurred involving drinking and driving.

One person was killed Wednesday in a DUI crash near 2700 South and 300 West in South Salt Lake.

Police said one of the drivers, Wilonja Lusungu, smelled of alcohol and had heavy bloodshot eyes. According to police, Lusungu had a blood alcohol content of 0.085% four hours after the incident. He was arrested for investigation of automobile homicide and DUI.

The driver of the other car, Mavil Labra, 31, of West Valley City, was killed in the crash.

Ryan Muhlestein, 25, of Riverton, was killed Monday and his passenger was critically injured in a Taylorsville crash. Police said they were also hit by Andrea Lane Miller, 39, of Taylorsville, who was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of automobile homicide, two counts of driving under the influence, failing to remain at the scene of an accident involving death, carrying a gun while under the influence, and running a red light. 

Both drivers accused of drunken driving were booked into jail.

Officials said DUI arrests don’t have to come from drinking alcohol. Drivers also risk an arrest or harm to other people on the road when under the influence of other drugs and prescriptions.

Many drivers don’t realize that they’re sharing the road with impaired drivers.

“The typical DUI drives many times before they’re actually caught,” Battenfield said.

Troopers try their best to find drunken drivers. While law enforcement officers can’t be everywhere, they were out in force over the New Year’s holiday. Extra staff were on duty when they arrested those 39 people for DUI in one night.

“We try to get them stopped before they cause any damage (to) life. We treat those like lives destroyed and families destroyed, because of those deaths and injuries,” he said. “It’s sad to us because we don’t treat these like statistics.”

Perhaps no one knows what a destroyed life feels like the way Ashlee Loscher does.

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Ashlee Loscher is pictured during an interview on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Loscher and her 4-year-old son, Holden Curtis, were hit while crossing a road in Salt Lake City two months ago by a man who police say was driving drunk and ran a red light. Holden was killed.

Alex Cabrero, Deseret News

“For me, it was my 4-year old son who didn’t make it home,” Loscher said.

Two months ago, Holden Curtis was killed in Salt Lake City. He was on his bicycle crossing the road with his mom when he was hit by a man who police say was driving drunk and ran a red light.

“You don’t really realize how much you’re impacting other people,” said Loscher. “It’s not fair.”

Loscher was also hit on that day and is still recovering from her injuries. She said she can recover from the physical injuries, but the loss of her son will last forever.