Officers on DUI patrol to saturate Wichita area

Local law enforcement officials on Monday cautioned Wichita area motorists not to drink and drive this holiday season.

Drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be the focus of enforcement efforts from now through the first weekend of the new year, authorities said.

"We will be out there in force," Kansas Highway Patrol Capt. Dennis Martin said.

Wichita police, the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office and the highway patrol are teaming up to put more officers and troopers on the streets and highways at various times during the holiday season to aggressively watch for impaired drivers, Wichita Deputy Chief Terri Moses said.

While almost no one makes an intentional choice to drive while impaired, Moses said, but after a drink or two, "your decision-making is impaired."

Drivers may think they're perfectly fine to drive when in fact they are not, she said.

That's why friends and family play a key role in keeping impaired drivers off the road, she said. They can serve as designated drivers for holiday parties or taxi the impaired person home.

State grants will pay for overtime so more officers can be on patrol during the holiday period, officials said.

Sedgwick County sheriff's officers arrested 120 people for DUI during the 2008 holiday season, Lt. Dave Mattingly said. A total of 21 people were arrested in the last week of November, 80 were arrested in December and 19 the first weekend of January, he said.

Wichita police arrested 218 people for driving under the influence over the same period in 2008: 50 in November, 141 in December and 27 in early January.

Statistics from the highway patrol were not available.

Students in USD 259 tied red ribbons on student and faculty vehicles at 10 district high schools on Monday. The ribbons are meant to remind the drivers of victims in drunken driving accidents.

Anyone wanting a free DUI Holiday Drive for Victims red ribbon for their vehicle can contact the DUI Victim Center of Kansas at 316-262-1673.