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cityofsedonalogo.gif Carnage from Arizona’s drunk drivers totalled 585 men, women and children killed during 2006. This is 237 fewer than the number of soldiers killed in Iraq during the same period.

By Susan Johnson
Larson Newspapers

Carnage from Arizona’s drunk drivers totalled 585 men, women and children killed during 2006.

This is 237 fewer than the number of soldiers killed in Iraq during the same period.

Across the United States, nearly 18,000 men, women and children were killed in alcohol-related crashes last year alone, more than four times the number of Americans killed since the beginning of the Iraq war.

“The most frustrating part of drunk driving is that it is 100 percent avoidable,” Sedona police officer Karl Waak said.

Waak is the writer of the grant that provided funds from the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for concentrated DUI enforcement, prosecution and judiciary activities.

He’s also a member of the DUI saturation task force that carpets the Verde Valley on holiday weekends, watching for drivers who are driving too slow, making turns too wide, weaving in and out of their lanes, failing to use signals and light dimmers, stopping at green lights, going through red lights and exhibiting any of the other tell-tale signs of inebriation.

Participating in DUI crackdowns requires considerable time for the officers whose subsequent court appearances average four per arrest, according to Waak.

This year, 12 officers from Sedona, Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Camp Verde showed up for the pre-Christmas crackdown starting Dec. 21, that ranged across the entire Verde Valley and extended from 7 p.m. through 4 a.m.

The round-up required that the contingent of officers included certified phlebotomists for blood-draws and also drug recognition experts who could identify signs of drug impairment.

“Drug-impaired drivers exhibit different signals than drunk drivers,” Waak said. “It’s a separate specialty.”

One of the worst accidents in the Verde Valley was on New Year’s Eve Day three years ago when Robin Lynn Robbins of Camp Verde, driving under the influence of methamphetamine, killed the Rev. William Hutchinson and two of his sons and also Andrew Roeller, all of Cottonwood.

Hutchinson’s wife, Vicki,  another son, as well as the driver of a fourth vehicle, were injured in the crash.

An even larger toll was extracted in September as a result of a crash in Williams when Matthew Dent, who was stumbling drunk according to a report made by the only teenager to survive, killed himself and four others, all 21 or younger, when he lost control of his car and slammed into a tree at over 100 mph.

Others who assisted in the pre-Christmas weekend task force were a K-9 drug-sniffer and district judges who were on-call to issue search warrants as necessary.

New mandatory punishments went into effect Sept. 19 and include ignition interlock devices for all offenders and, for those with 0.2 blood alcohol content or higher, a minimum of 45 days in jail.

After a short briefing in the Cottonwood police headquarters, the officers began their patrol, some in their usual jurisdiction and others travelling to adjacent communities.

Waak, a graduate of the Northern Arizona Regional Training Academy and a motorcycle officer who’s been on the Sedona police force for nearly five years, drove east on Hwy. 89A and then circled Sedona’s perimeter roads on his way to Hwy. 179.

Early evening was relatively quiet for the DUI team, though they made plenty of stops for speeding and other infractions.

DUI arrests picked up after 2 a.m. when, according to Waak, the bars are required to stop serving alcohol.

Across the state, the statistics for the enforcement tallied 100 arrests for extreme DUI of 0.2 BAC and above, 35 for aggravated DUI of 0.15 BAC up to 0.199 BAC and 358 for misdemeanor DUI of 0.08 up to 0.149 BAC.

Average BAC was 0.14 for those arrested during the sweep.

At 2:05 a.m. Waak stopped a driver who blew a 0.147 on the blood alcohol content Intoxilyzer, just short of the aggravated DUI level of 0.15 BAC.

By the end of the night, Waak had made a total of 40 stops.

“My goal is to prevent someone’s wife or husband or child from losing their life,” Waak said.

Susan Johnson can be reached at 282.7795, Ext. 129 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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