Good news and bad for road safety

The good news: drunk driving arrests are up.

The bad news: drunk driving arrests are up.

We can spin the numbers both ways, because of the

less-than-subtle correlation between “collars” and the

countless other incidents of impaired motoring that go

unnoticed and unprosecuted, yet imperil lives nonetheless.

Our thoughts are occasioned by recent conversations with Bainbridge Police Traffic Officer Rob Corn and the ladies of the Kitsap County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Last Friday, at an award ceremony honoring law enforcement officers and other partners in their cause, MADD recognized Corn for leading Bainbridge Police in DUI arrests for the

second consecutive year with 25. He looks like a shoo-in for 2003, having tallied 28 DUI collars this year – and it’s only July.

As a group, Bainbridge Police have netted 44 drunk drivers this year, compared to 31 in the same period in 2002. They have a ways to go to catch their peers around the county; one Washington State Patrol trooper by himself racked up 73 DUI busts last year, while a Kitsap deputy recorded 47. Those numbers frustrate Marsha Masters, Kitsap MADD president.

“With all this awareness we try to do, it makes us wonder why there are so many people out there still taking a chance. But we keep trying,” Marsha told us this week.

One key to the cause is MADD’s education program in area schools. Awards Friday went to a dozen students – none from Bainbridge – for a poster/essay contest on drunk-driving awareness. And Gateway Towing was honored for participating in a “mock crash” program that visits all local high schools – except, so far, Bainbridge.

On the way to work Tuesday morning, the editor chanced across an accident scene on Blakely Avenue.

Two Bainbridge Police officers were measuring a series of wild skid marks that began in a curve and ended nearly 500 feet away at the edge of an embankment.

At the bottom of the slope lay scattered debris left from a luxury automobile that was destroyed in the crash, which sent a teenage driver to the hospital. Officers we spoke with say the youth escaped serious injury, and for that we should all be most thankful.

While the investigation is ongoing, police believe alcohol was a factor. Either way, perhaps it’s time we let MADD make some inroads to Bainbridge schools.

In the dramatic mock-crash program, a pre-wrecked vehicle is brought in and a crash scene recreated as students watch. Police and aid roll in to extricate “victims” for treatment. Sometimes the airlift helicopter descends; sometimes the coroner’s wagon shows up.

At the end, speakers contextualize what the students have seen; on occasion, family or friends of those lost to drunk

driving relay the impact of those losses on their own lives.

“It’s pretty moving,” Marsha tells us. “It’s pretty quiet when they’re done talking.”

Bainbridge schools Superintendent Ken Crawford tells us his office has already spoken with MADD about bringing the program to Bainbridge High School this fall. Good to hear.

It sounds like a powerful lesson, and a useful one.

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