DUI task force formed for Wasatch County

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Nearly 12,000 people are killed by drunk drivers every year in the U.S. -UHP

WASATCH COUNTY -- When Wasatch County councilman Val Draper heard about the new team being formed in the county to fight drunk driving, he wanted to get involved.

A few years ago, he had no choice.

"Every time we pass that spot, it brings back memories that it can happen in just a split second," said Draper.

A few years ago, in Provo Canyon, Draper says a drunk driver slammed into his car head-on. No one died, but it was a wake-up call.

Wasatch County ranks second in Utah for alcohol related crashes resulting in injury and alcohol related fatal crashes. -Caring Community Coalition

"Drunk driving is simply not worth the risk," said Draper. "We all need to work on it."

Recently, the Wasatch County and Heber Valley Counseling group received a federal grant to reduce the number of DUIs in the county.

The Wasatch County Sheriff's Office says the county is ranked second in Utah for alcohol-related injuries and fatal crashes.

"It does open your eyes to what alcohol or drugs can do to you while driving, especially when someone gets involved in an accident," said Wasatch County Sheriff Todd Bonner. "It changes the lives of a lot of people."

"It's just not ourselves we're dealing with, it's the lives of others," said Heber Police Chief Edward Rhoades.

Rhoades has a particular interest in decreasing DUIs. Most of them in the county happen along Heber's Main Street.

Did you know...
In Utah, in 2008, there were almost 17,000 DUI arrests for drunk driving. The average Blood Alcohol Concentration of those arrested was almost twice the legal limit and has been every year since 1998. -UHP

"It scares me," said Rhoades, "but I guess what I'm really shocked at is that after all the campaigns and after all the work and after all the information about drunk driving, we're still doing it."

"If they all could see what law enforcement sees out there, I know there wouldn't be near as much drinking," said Bonner.

Heber mayor Dave Phillips says 43 percent of Wasatch High School seniors admit they've had alcohol before, and 13 percent of them have admitted to drinking and driving.

The most dangerous driver is a male age 16-20 with alcohol in his system. -MADD

That's a number he says is unacceptable. However, he also says it's a great place to start reduction efforts.

"We'd all rest better if underage drinking was zero," said Phillips.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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