DUI crackdown: Additional troopers heading to Yakima County

DUI crackdown: Additional troopers heading to Yakima County
FILE
YAKIMA, Wash. -- More state troopers are on the way to find Yakima County drunk drivers. KIMA learned a new unit will soon be on patrol, modeled after a successful program on the West Side.

"I often speak your name. Now, all I have is memories and your picture in a frame," said Karen Overacker, a mother who's son was killed by a drunk driver.

It's the only way Karen Overacker can hold her son.

"God has you in his keeping, I have you in my heart," Overacker said.

A heart heavy with loss.

"My only son was killed by a drunk driver," said Overacker. "This is potentially what you can do to somebody else's family."

It happened 12 years ago, but it's still hard to swallow. News that law enforcement officers don't like to deliver.

"I've conducted more next-of-kin notifications that I can even begin to recount," said Washington State Patrol Lieutenant Tom Foster.

Washington State wants to make this stop.

"The target zero teams have been deployed in other parts of the state with great success," said Foster.

Zero is the goal. It means eliminating all traffic related deaths by 2030, including accidents involving drunk drivers.

"If you haven't had it affect you, a lot of people don't take it seriously," said Overacker.

It is being taken seriously here in Yakima County.

A so-called "Target Zero Team" is on the way to focus solely on busting people who drive under the influence.

The enforcement team will consist of six troopers and one sergeant. When you factor in salaries and the tools to do the job, you're looking at a $1.5 million price tag over a two-year period.


"What does this mean for the people in the Yakima Valley?" KIMA asked.

"Well, ultimately what it means is safer roads," said Foster.

Nearly half of all traffic deaths between 2007 and 2011 involved alcohol.
There are hundreds of DUI accidents in Yakima County every year.

"If they can get them off the road and people know that there's going to be somebody looking for me all the time, not just, I have to be careful during Christmas or New year’s, I think it's a great idea," said Overacker.

"This is an excellent tool to try and drive those fatality numbers down," Foster said.

Success marked by fewer knocks on the door that bring heartbreak on the other side.

Governor Jay Inslee and lawmakers from both parties Tuesday introduced tougher DUI legislation.

It would install more interlock devices for DUI defendants. And, allow other counties to follow Yakima County's lead by establishing DUI courts.

The additional troopers here in Yakima County should be on patrol by July.