After busy DUI arrest weekend, Whatcom law enforcement urges ‘just do the right thing’

Law enforcement agencies booked 20 people into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol on Whatcom County roads last weekend between Friday, Oct. 4 and Monday morning, Oct. 7.

“That’s a lot of people out enjoying the first weekend of October,” Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman told The Bellingham Herald. “Twenty seems like a whole lot to me, especially when you consider it was 20 that got caught — there are probably more that didn’t get caught. It’s a sad reality.”

The 20 DUI arrests represented 42.6% of the 47 bookings into the jail during the time period.

For comparison, local law enforcement had 12 DUI bookings the weekend of Sept. 27-30 and 11 the weekend of Sept. 20-23.

Though DUI checkpoints have been ruled unconstitutional in Washington state, emphasis patrols are allowed, though Axtman said the State Patrol was not conducting one last weekend.

The State Patrol led the way with 11 DUI arrests, though credit definitely can be shared, as the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office had three and the Bellingham Police Department had two, while the Sumas, Ferndale, Everson and Lummi Nation departments all had one each.

“Regardless if it’s one or 11, I’m still so amazed that DUIs happen,” Axtman said. “Every time you get behind the wheel when you are impaired, you’re taking the chance you could completely ruin or alter your life and someone else’s life. I’m not saying that’s their mindset, but you have to understand that there is a chance there. That’s the risk.”

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Axtman didn’t have to reach far back to come up with an example of just how important DUI enforcement is.

Despite all the DUI arrests in Whatcom County, a 62-year-old Ferndale man was killed early Monday in a head-on collision involving a driver believed to be impaired just across the Whatcom-Skagit county line on Alger Cain Lake Road. A 31-year-old Maple Falls man was booked into Skagit County Jail on suspicion of vehicular homicide in the incident after he crossed the center line, Axtman told The Herald.

“There are so many ride-sharing and taxi services out there, I will never understand why somebody decides to drive home if they’re impaired,” Axtman said. “Just do the right thing.”

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David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.