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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Highway Patrol sent an unprecedented number of troopers out on the roads this weekend for a DUI blitz. The goal was to discourage people from ever getting behind the wheel while they're under the influence, and the numbers from this weekend suggest the message is sinking in.
The UHP sent out 174 troopers this weekend with a clear objective. "We're serious about getting drunk drivers off the road," said UHP Trooper Cameron Roden.
The numbers tell the story: Troopers stopped 1,565 vehicles statewide. Of those, 76 drivers were arrested for DUI, driving while intoxicated with alcohol or prescription or illicit drugs.
No doubt, knowing highway patrol troopers were out in force discouraged others from making a dumb mistake. "In a couple of the counties we've had zero crashes, zero alcohol-related crashes, and the taxis are actually lining up at some of these bars. And they're being used on a constant basis, in terms of coming out, using the taxis and the taxi drops them off and gets someone else. So that's probably what we're most proud of," said UHP Sgt. Jeff Nigbur.
It seems not a week goes by that a serious, sometimes fatal accident in Utah involves drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But state lawmakers just passed tougher laws aimed at drinking and driving, which go into effect July 1.
Under the new laws, minors convicted of drunk driving will lose their license until they're 21. Adults convicted of drunken driving will lose their license for 120 days. Repeat drunk-driving offenders will have both their license and vehicle taken away.
The UHP plans to follow up this weekend's blitz with many more. "I think we've saved some actual lives this weekend. I think some people probably didn't die this weekend because of our efforts and the public's efforts in making those decisions to not get behind the wheel and drink and drive," Nigbur said.
Nigbur says the UHP plans to do this each month, focusing not just for those drinking and driving, but also for aggressive drivers, speeders and those not wearing seat belts.