Are drunken drivers in Summit getting wise? |

Are drunken drivers in Summit getting wise?

SUMMIT COUNTY – Local law enforcement agencies set up a checkpoint looking for drunken drivers. Out of nearly 200 motorists who pass through, officers make only two DUI arrests.

You can look at it two ways:

Either heavy-handed enforcement and educational outreach have gotten the word out, and drivers aren’t getting behind the wheel when tipsy, or word of the checkpoint got out and people did their partying somewhere where they wouldn’t have to pass through pylons, lights and officers asking questions.

When drawing a conclusion, one should note what happened the following weekend. Over the Fourth of July weekend, the county’s cops roped just under a dozen DUIs.

“It does make you wonder,” said Jill Berman, public information officer for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, which logged 11 DUIs over the weekend.

But in Silverthorne, a town that first developed a reputation as a zero-

tolerance gantlet for drunken drivers and now takes them home with a ticket instead of driving them to jail in Breckenridge, there were no DUI arrests over the weekend. According to the Silverthorne Police Department, officers were on the streets in expectation of busy patrols but were happily unoccupied.

Silverthorne Police spokeswoman Verna Pottle said she believes restaurants and bars are more responsible now, and that has reduced the number of tipplers on the road.

“We’re thankful that they’re participating in the TIPS classes and other programs,” Pottle said. She also pointed out that sobriety checkpoints are highly publicized, so people think ahead; on holidays, people let the thrill of the moment carry them away.

Beverly Gmerek, a coordinator at the Summit Prevention Alliance, noted that DUI arrests were down about 50 percent from the same holiday period last year. Given the tens of thousands of visitors in the county, she said, a dozen DUI arrests is a sign that people are being responsible. And, she noted, few arrests at a sobriety checkpoint doesn’t compare the effect of publicizing it.

“They don’t result in a lot of arrests, and that’s fine,” Gmerek said. “They result in a lot of awareness. That’s a beneficial effect, but not a measurable one. I think the word is getting out.”

Drivers at Summit Taxi agreed. The company had all four of its fleet of cars on the road over the weekend, averaging 20 calls an hour.

Statewide, police made 373 DUI arrests between July 3 and July 7. Preliminary reports from the Colorado State Patrol said that nine people died in traffic crashes, three of which were alcohol-related.

Reid Williams can be reached

at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or

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