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Starting today, the Idaho State Police and law enforcement agencies throughout Idaho, Washington, and Montana will increase patrols to identify and remove impaired drivers from our roadways. The extra patrols will continue through the holiday season.

During a multi-agency press conference Monday in Coeur d'Alene, Colonel Ked Wills of the Idaho State Police said safety on our roadways is a priority to all of the agencies involved.

"We're standing here united to help prevent the pain families suffer when they lose a loved one in a traffic crash. We want families to be together this holiday and many more to come," said Colonel Wills.

Impaired driving is always a focus for Idaho State Police Troopers. And for Troopers in North Idaho, the interest is particularly urgent.

Between 2015 and 2017, nearly 60% of the fatal crashes in Kootenai County were caused by impaired drivers. According to NHTSA, in 2017, only 20% of the fatal crashes nationally were caused by impaired drivers.

Since 2013, more than half of the fatal crashes in North Idaho have involved impaired drivers.

North Idaho has the worst impaired driving rate in the state.

To address the problem, ISP and other law enforcement agencies have come together to form the North Idaho DUI Task Force. Their goal is to stop impaired driving crashes and fatalities in Northern Idaho.

Officer Nick Knoll of Coeur d'Alene Police Department, who coordinated Monday's press briefing, thanked the agencies involved with the task force and how both large and small agencies have committed to increase patrols from now through the holidays.

Colonel Wills also reinforced that the Idaho State Police and their partner law enforcement agencies are in the business of changing and saving lives, and the efforts of this task force is a key to do that.

"The holiday season should be a happy time. We are grateful for our law enforcement partners. We believe working together, our efforts will be more effective and make a difference." Said Colonel Wills.

Idaho State Police reminds the public that all of us have a stake in preventing impaired driving. What can you do?

Designate a sober driver, call a cab, or use a ride-hailing service.

Don't let friends get behind the wheel if they're under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If you're hosting a party where guests may become impaired, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.

Always wear your seat belt - it's your best defense against impaired drivers.