If you’re driving down a country road and all of a sudden a bank of mailboxes jumps in front of your car, chances are you’re driving impaired.
Bolstered by a federal grant, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested 14 people for driving under the influence of intoxicants during a 19-day holiday saturation patrol period.
“The holiday season tends to be where we see an increase in impaired driving,” Jackson County sheriff’s Sgt. Julie Denney said Wednesday. “There are a lot more parties.”
And a lot more alcohol available.
While grant funding ended Dec. 31, the danger of intoxicated driving continued into the new year. Three additional arrests were made in the early hours of Jan. 1.
Deputies patrolling Central Point at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday came across a vehicle that had crashed into a bank of mailboxes near Rock Way. The driver, Sean Lee Lansing, 26, of Medford, was unconscious and behind the wheel with the vehicle still in gear, the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies found Lansing heavily impaired, but uninjured, according to the sheriff’s office.
Following his arrest, Lansing provided a breath sample that showed a blood alcohol level of 0.19 percent, the sheriff’s office said. Lansing was arrested on a charge of felony DUII and misdemeanor driving while suspended. He was also cited on a charge of driving with an open container of alcohol.
Lansing’s record since December 2011 includes three previous DUII convictions since 2011, the earliest of which was dismissed after Lansing completed a diversion program.
During the extra patrols, deputies made four arrests following crashes and 10 were found during traffic stops. Ages ranged from 18 to 61, and all but two were men, Denney said.
The saturation patrols were part of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign sponsored by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, administered by ODOT. The grant pays overtime for deputies not scheduled that day.
“What stands out is that 10 of the 14 arrests came from traffic stops,” Denney said. “We are being proactive.
“We know they are out there,” Denney said. “National statistics show on any given day, at any given time, there are a certain amount of people driving impaired. We aren’t waiting for crashes to happen.”
Denney said intoxicated drivers often give themselves away by not staying in their lane, not signaling, taking wide turns onto streets, and forgetting to turn on their lights.
“A lot of people will try to mask their alcohol use by suddenly smoking a cigarette when an officer is approaching,” Denney said. “Some people will have scented products or other things in their car. I’ve even seen it before where a man started eating an onion in his car because he didn’t want alcohol to be the dominant scent that was obvious.”
The next programmed saturation patrols are slated for the weekend of the Super Bowl, Feb. 1-4.