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‘Peaceful Protest’ in Arlington reminds people to not drink and drive

From left, Arlington residents John and Karen Elliott take part in the Dec. 18 peaceful protest at Island Crossing to help prevent other families from losing loved ones to those driving under the influence. - Kirk Boxleitner
From left, Arlington residents John and Karen Elliott take part in the Dec. 18 peaceful protest at Island Crossing to help prevent other families from losing loved ones to those driving under the influence.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — Motorists who passed through Island Crossing received some stark reminders to play it safe this holiday season as volunteers staged a peaceful protest at the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 530, Dec. 18, to warn against driving under the influence.

“It’s been so encouraging,” said Jan Schemenauer, DUI victim panel coordinator for the Snohomish County DUI and Target Zero Traffic Safety Task Force. “The response we’ve gotten has been amazing. We’d have people honking their horns, clapping and giving us thumbs up as they’ve driven by.”

Schemenauer was joined by 20 other peaceful protesters who held up signs on both sides of I-5, as well as on both sides of the overpass. Volunteers came from Arlington, Stanwood, Granite Falls and Snohomish to help hold signs emblazoned with safe driving slogans, and the younger volunteers included members of high school driver’s education courses. While Schemenauer was heartened by the turnout, which she estimated was twice that of last year’s peaceful protest, she expressed regret that such an event is still necessary.

“Nobody should have to go through the heartbreak of a fatality caused by a DUI,” Schemenauer said. “Think before you drink. Make plans. So many of the people who are here today have lost loved ones because of someone driving under the influence.”

“I don’t want this to happen to any other families,” said Aida Stump of Stanwood, as she held the other end of Schemenauer’s banner sign. “Losing a child is the worst thing a parent can go through.”

Stump’s son died in 2006, at the age of 17, as a result of driving under the influence. Arlington residents John and Karen Elliott lost their son in 2004, at the age of 18, to a drunk driver, and their joined Stump and Schemenauer at the peaceful protest.

“We’ve been doing events like this for the past three years,” Karen Elliott said. “We’re not saying people can’t have a good time at parties during the holidays, but they need to think before they get behind the wheel. Designate a driver, and even if you haven’t been drinking, don’t get into a car with a driver who has.”

The peaceful protest was staged in conjunction with the “Night of 1,000 Stars” impaired driving traffic safety emphasis patrols, conducted by law enforcement agencies throughout Washington state for the past 20 years. This year’s patrols on Dec. 17 and 18 were dedicated to fallen officers, those who continue to protect and serve, and DUI victims and their families.

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