EL PASO COUNTY — A record number of Coloradans will be traveling from December 21 to January 1, and the majority of those people will be driving to their destinations according to AAA Colorado. With all those cars on the road, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office wants to remind all residents that one third of all traffic fatalities in the county are related to impaired driving, and to stay safe this holiday season.
News 5 spoke with one woman, who said she has seen the effects of a drunk driving accident firsthand. "I actually was in a marriage to a man who lost two little girls to a drunk driver. His wife was behind the wheel, they were driving like a normal day, and he came out of nowhere. He t-boned the little girl's back end of the car and on the way to the hospital they died," said Danielle Shannon, who has been living in Colorado Springs for more than a decade.
Shannon said her ex-husband was never the same after losing his children, and wants everyone to remember the ripple effect of drunk driving before getting behind the wheel. "Truly think about what you're doing, and the decisions you're making, and the people you can truly hurt. That's the biggest thing," said Shannon.
With AAA Colorado reporting the largest number of Coloradans traveling this holiday season since they began tracking that data in 2000, they said it's especially important to be vigilant. "Combine being impaired with the record amount of traffic we're going to have on the roads, the odds are not in your favor that you're going to make it out of one of these situations safely," said AAA Colorado Spokesman Skyler McKinley.
El Paso County Sheriff's Office Traffic Enforcement Unit Sergeant Cliff Porter said he has had to respond to scenes of drunk driving accidents that have changed him forever. "It is very rare in fighting crime that we have a crime that causes death that is 100% preventable, this is one of them," said Sgt. Porter.
Sgt. Porter said last year there were around 450 DUI arrests in El Paso County, but this year there have been 836, which is an approximate 186% increase. He also said the sheriff's office has been gaining resources to battle drunk driving, which is why they went from $40,000 last year in grant funding to $150,000 this year. "We have the people, we have the money, we have the training, we have the experience, we will be out there, we will find you, and you will go to jail," said Sgt. Porter.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office said the next DUI enforcement period will start on December 27 and end on January 2, however, they are always on guard against impaired driving.