Battles Well Fought Against Drunken Driving

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2007

The statistics on drunken driving can be, well, sobering. But there are also what one police official called "untold statistics": the lives that are saved when a police officer takes a drunk driver off the road.

Last week, seven Northern Virginia police officers were among those honored by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program for their work targeting drunk drivers.

That work was analyzed by George Pakidis of Arlington Red Top Cab, a WRAP board member, who noted that nearly 15,000 drunk drivers were arrested in the Washington area last year, more than the combined populations of Falls Church and Chevy Chase.

That's an arrest rate of about 41 people per day. "That's 41 potential killers stopped before they get the chance to kill," Pakidis said, "by the men and women here today."

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) also spoke at Friday's reception at Tysons Corner, which marked the 25th anniversary of WRAP's founding as a group devoted to fighting drunken driving. "WRAP has done a great job," Kaine said, "and recognizing those in the law enforcement community who have stepped forward [to battle drunken driving] is a great idea."

Kaine noted that statewide in Virginia, there were 135 fewer alcohol-related fatalities from Jan. 1 through mid-November than during the same period in 2006, a 40 percent decrease. But "oddly enough," Kaine said, the total number of fatal crashes in the commonwealth was at 951 and on pace to top 1,000 for this year, the highest annual total since the 1990s.

(Half of all traffic fatalities on Christmas Day are alcohol-related, according to WRAP statistics, and 70 percent of all fatalities on New Year's Day are alcohol-related.)

"We've got a lot of work to do," Kaine said, "and WRAP is a critical part of it."

Former D.C. police lieutenant Pamela Simms, whose police officer husband was killed by a drunk driver in 1996, helped present the awards to 14 area officers who have made drunken driving a specialty. Half of the officers were from Northern Virginia:

¿ Officer Mark Morgan of the Alexandria Police Department worked nearly all of his city's mobile DWI patrols over the past five years, obtaining 80 DWI convictions, as well as arresting multiple suspects on felony charges while handling aggressive-driving assignments.

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