PARKERSBURG - Parkersburg police arrested eight people for driving under the influence this past weekend, raising safety concerns about travel leading up to and including the holiday stretch.
"In 2011, there were a total of 114 DUI arrests made," said Parkersburg police Sgt. Greg Collins.
Of the 114 arrests last year in the city, 24 were in December, nearly twice the amount of any other month, police said. April and June were the closest with 13 DUI arrests each.
As of Nov. 1, 2012, there have been 163 DUI arrests in Parkersburg. The increase in arrests prompted the city police department to ask the public to be more responsible, while providing a warning of the substantial DUI enforcement efforts for the days ahead.
During December, police said, there will be three additional officers on the roadways nearly each day. These officers will be looking for drivers under the influence, they said.
Overtime expenses incurred by the officers during this time will be reimbursed by the Governor's Highway Safety Program, officials said.
"It's our goal through enforcement to minimize property damage and prevent serious injuries or loss of life on (city) streets," said Collins. "Driving under the influence of alcohol or any other substance can't be tolerated."
According to national statistics, in 2008 just under 400 people were killed in West Virginia because of intoxicated driving. In 2007, more than 6,000 people in the state were arrested for driving under the influence.
In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found there were 10,228 fatalities nationwide in crashes involving a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher.
The number of fatalities in DUI crashes for the state was 315 in 2010, according to NHTSA research.
Collins said the "holiday stretch" from Halloween to New Year's Eve probably leads to increased DUI arrests during those months. In part, he said, because of what is considered acceptable drinking at holiday events and parties.
"(Police) try to monitor our DUI arrest locations so that we may strategically set up our sobriety checkpoints in those areas," he said. "Officers who are good at DUI detection always know what streets to watch."
City police DUI patrols and checkpoints have been funded by the Governor's Highway Safety Program. In a meeting with Toni Tiano of the GHSP last summer police Chief Joe Martin pledged a revived commitment to taking drivers under the influence off the road, Collins said.
The increased amount of officers for December will be reimbursed by the GHSP, officials said.
Police said a lot of factors go into the number of DUI arrests each year. Officers hope their enforcement efforts and the public service messages have had an impact on driving down arrest numbers, officials said.
"It's great that our officers made a significant number of DUI arrests this past weekend," Collins said. "Any one of those arrests could have saved a life or lives."