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Game and Fish adds alcohol testing gear to DUI patrols
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Game and Fish adds alcohol testing gear to DUI patrols

Grant buys eight breath-testing devices

  • An off-highway vehicle travels through the Tonto National Forest.
    Nora Avery-Page/Cronkite News ServiceAn off-highway vehicle travels through the Tonto National Forest.

PHOENIX — Those who may drink to excess when driving off-highway vehicles should be prepared to blow into a tube when pulled over by an Arizona Game and Fish Department officer.

Armed with a $4,000 grant, the agency’s off-highway vehicle patrol is using eight preliminary breath-testing devices across the state to determine whether drivers are under the influence.

“I think we’ve missed a lot of DUIs over the years because of the lack of training and the lack of equipment,” said Jimmy Simmons, off-highway vehicle law enforcement equipment manager with Game and Fish.

The devices have been helpful in showing DUI suspects what officers could otherwise only see through field sobriety tests such as standing on one leg, walking and turning and performing eye tests, he said.

“It allows our suspect to see a tangible result,” said Geoffrey Hossack, law enforcement specialist with Game and Fish. “They may not understand what I’m trying to say when they’re impaired. Being able to show them on a preliminary test that ‘It’s illegal at this number and you’re at this number’ is easier to comprehend.”

A representative of the Arizona Off Highway Vehicle Coalition said the focus on safety and sobriety is long overdue.

“If you’re not totally coherent, you get loose on the dirt faster than if you’re on the pavement,” said Chris Radoccia, the group’s four-by-four representative. “You have a higher likelihood of losing control, and trying to correct once you’ve lost it is like sliding on glass, it’s near impossible.”

Alberto Gutier, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which provided the grant, said driving is dangerous whether it’s on a highway, in a boat or a path.

“Driving is dangerous on a highway, in a boat or on a non-designated road,” he said.

“The law needs to be enforced wherever drivers are,” he said.

Game and Fish also is training off-highway vehicle patrol officers on how to recognize drivers impaired by drugs.

“Getting people out there is just as important as getting them on the main road,” Radoccia said. “If you don’t have all your faculties with you, pavement or dirt the results are the same – someone could die or get seriously injured.”

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