BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)– Eight Law Enforcement agencies in Bay County joined forces Friday night with one purpose in mind, to get impaired drivers off the road.
The agencies involved were: The Bay County Sheriff’s Office, Panama City Beach Police, Panama City Police, Florida Highway Patrol, Lynn Haven Police Department, Parker Police Department, Springfield Police Department and The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The task force enabled the officers involved to work beyond their normal jurisdiction.
“If you come out here and you drive drunk, I’m going to arrest you. I’m going to find you, and arrest you,” said Officer Yusuf Arafa with Panama City Beach Police.
Law enforcement officials told News 13 there are clues that they look for that may indicate if a driver is impaired.
“We’re looking for blurred speech, glossy eyes, bloodshot eyes, unusual coordination,” said Corporal Alex Young with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.
“Another indicator is failure to maintain their lane, and speeding, as drunks speed all the time,” said Officer Arafa.
They tell us one traffic stop can make all the difference when it comes to saving a life.
“The only difference between a DUI misdemeanor and a DUI manslaughter is one officer that chose to make a traffic stop,” said Officer Arafa.
After numerous citations and warnings, Officer Arafa was called to Highway 390 and Frankford Avenue in Panama City. Officers on scene told us the motorcyclist was going 35 miles per hour over the speed limit and attempting to pass in a non-passing lane.
When he was questioned by Officer Arafa, the motorcyclist said he was headed to another bar, but had already been drinking earlier in the night.
Officer Arafa asked the man to do several field sobriety exercises: the walk and turn, the one leg stand, and he also examined the motorcyclist’s eyes to see if there was an involuntary jerk, which he told us is often a sign of impairment.
The motorcyclist failed the field sobriety test and was arrested for driving under the influence and reckless driving.
“Essentially we saved him from hurting himself, as well as possibly other people,” said Officer Arafa.
Ultimately, Officer Arafa said he hopes the no tolerance policy and stricter enforcement will encourage people to “think before you drink” and not get behind the wheel while impaired.
“Our main purpose is to get people in the mindset of I shouldn’t be doing this,” he said.
In total, the DUI Task Force had 16 DUI arrest, 90 citations, 59 warnings, and 2 drug arrests.
Sheriff Tommy Ford said the DUI task force isn’t going away, but rather, it’s just getting started.
“We will be going out about once a month, but you don’t know when, so even more the reason not to chance it and drive impaired,” he said.