After five suspected drunk driving deaths, volunteers and authorities take action
Editor’s note: This story was originally broadcast Dec. 4. It’s the second installment of a three-part series examining drunk driving and the work being done to stop it.
ANCHORAGE – Police have a new tool to fight drunk driving in Anchorage. KTVA 11 got a dramatic look at what’s being done.
Anchorage had been free of DUI fatalities for 14 months. But after five suspected drunk driving deaths over the summer, police decided they had to take quick action. The Anchorage Police Department worked to set up a citizens’ DUI task force, which was on the street less than a week after the deaths of two 15-year-old girls. On Aug. 9, a suspected drunk driver hit and killed Brooke McPheters and Jordyn Durr while they walked home from shopping.
“All of them were tragic,” said Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew. “But number three and four, the two girls that were just walking down the sidewalk in broad daylight, that rattled everybody here.”
KTVA 11 rode along for several hours overnight with task force members in September. Citizen volunteers use their own cars and volunteer their time to catch drunk drivers. They must go through a 13-week training course, but have no authority on the street. They ride in pairs, and when they see erratic driving the passenger jots down the plate number and calls 911.
The hope is that a police officer will show up to witness a possibly intoxicated driver and arrest them.
“They see us, but they don’t know it’s us,” said task force member Nick Hornshuh.
During a September patrol, a KTVA crew saw drivers weaving all over the road, making three lane turns and one passenger hanging his head out a window, looking like he was going to vomit.