Law enforcement planning increased traffic patrols over holiday

11/19/2012 5:09 PM

11/19/2012 5:10 PM

Wichita police and Kansas Highway Patrol troopers will join the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office in putting additional officers on patrol through Sunday.

Officers will be paying particular attention to impaired drivers and people who aren’t properly restrained in seatbelts or car seats.

“We want everyone to enjoy themselves this holiday season, but to do it in a safe manner,” police Lt. Joe Schroeder said Monday.

Half of the 26 people who died in traffic collisions in Wichita last year were killed in crashes that involved impaired drivers, he said. Only two of the 21 traffic deaths so far this year have been directly related to impaired driving, but Schroeder said several suspected cases have not yet been confirmed by blood tests.

Penalties for DUIs are “extremely expensive,” Schroeder said. Along with paying for the installation and maintenance of an ignition interlock, drivers face license suspensions of from 30 days to year depending on the blood alcohol content reading. Add in fines and court costs, he said, and a DUI will cost offenders an average of $2,000.

“It’s just not worth it,” Schroeder said. “It’s absolutely not worth it.”

A recent collision on Kellogg that killed a 3-year-old boy and injured several other children is a reminder of the importance of having children properly secured inside a vehicle, he said.

“Please buckle those children up,” Schroeder said. “Children, they don’t really have a choice. They get in that car, and they’re pretty much at the mercy of whatever their parents do with them.

“Seeing a child die as a result of an accident – especially when that death could have been avoided – is tragic, and it’s a loss to this entire community.”

Police officers will be doing saturation patrols throughout the city over the next week, he said.

Trooper Gary Warner cautioned drivers not to over-extend themselves this holiday season. Students and military personnel may drive many hours in an attempt to get home for a short break.

“Generally, they have a narrow window of time, and they’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get home,’ ” Warner said. “Fatigue driving is something people need to be aware of.”

A fatigued driver who has been awake for a period of 24 hours or more will exhibit similar reactions as a person impaired by alcohol, Warner said.

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