On Halloween, as with many other American holidays, people enjoy celebrating the festivities with friends and strangers, partying and drinking. However, all too often, people make the decision to drive home even after they have had enough to put them over the legal limit. Halloween can be a particularly dangerous time to drive while impaired because the fall weather means it gets dark earlier, there are a number of children out on the streets, and other impaired revelers could be walking around in dark costumes, difficult to see.
In Salt Lake County, the Utah Highway Patrol's Halloween DUI blitz resulted in 33 DUI arrests on Friday October 31st. There were about 40 troopers involved, with a typical weekend night consisting of 10 to 15 troopers. Yet on designated holidays which also include the 4th of July, and New Year's Eve involve about four times as many officers to conduct increased DUI patrols. A trooper reported the encouraging statistics report 33 DUI arrests with no reports of alcohol-related accidents or fatalities.
This past weekend, people from across the country left their Halloween night festivities in costume, only to wind up in jail facing a DUI charge. Many of them get pulled over before they end up arrested, but for one woman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, being intoxicated while asleep inside her running car was enough to put her behind bars.
Police allegedly found Cynthia Sweigart, 40, asleep inside her running car stopped in the middle of the road. Music was blaring, and it took over 5 minutes to get her to wake up. The woman's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was 0.17 percent, more than double the legal limit. It may not have helped that the woman's choice of Halloween costume was dressing as a police officer.
Meanwhile, in wine country California, stepped up enforcement netted a grand total of zero impaired drivers. The Napa Valley Register reported that on Friday night, Napa County law enforcement stopped 57 vehicles throughout the area, with eight drivers showing signs of alcohol impairment, but none were sufficiently impaired or above the legal BAC.
It may not only be Halloween revelers who are drinking and getting behind the wheel. In Santa Rosa, California, it was an ice cream truck driver who was arrested by the California Highway Patrol on Friday, with a BAC greater than four times the legal limit. The driver was reported to police by a gas station attendant who believed the driver was intoxicated. Thankfully no one was injured, as the man was arrested across the street from an elementary school just as trick-or-treaters were beginning to venture out.
Washington State averages over one fatality a year on Halloween, and like many jurisdictions, local law enforcement steps up patrols on Halloween to nab drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs. Increased DUI patrols are funded in part by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC). Undersheriff for Kitsap County Gary Simpson says, “Impaired driving is a choice -- a preventable one. We want to remind all Kitsap County drivers that if you've had any alcohol to drink or have used any drugs, you cannot drive.”