Oldest Living Washington State Trooper Wants You To Know This... - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Oldest Living Washington State Trooper Wants You To Know This...

KENNEWICK, Wash. - When you turn 95, people start asking "what's your secret?" Retired Washington State Trooper Bob Rupp is happy to answer.

He stays active, attending Rotary meetings almost every week. He stays fit, weighing little more than when he was a rookie cop. And he studiously avoids a mistake that he saw take far too many lives.

"I don't drink and drive, and you shouldn't either," Rupp said. "There's no faster way to an early grave."

Rupp is the State Patrol's oldest living retired trooper. He also served three terms as Benton County Sheriff. During his time in law enforcement he responded to hundreds of DUI collisions and made far more death notifications than he would have liked.

He says telling family members that a loved one wouldn't be coming home was the hardest part of his job.

"Collisions and arrests become a blur, but I remember every death notification I've ever made," he said. "The frustrating part is that it's all unnecessary. There's no need to drink and drive. There's no reason, and there's no excuse."

Rupp joined State Patrol Chief John Batiste in Kennewick today, to sound a warning for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

"If you choose to drink and drive this weekend, we will do our best to save your life, and others', by arresting you," Batiste said. "We want to help you live to be Bob Rupp's age."

Four people died in collisions over the Labor Day weekend last year. Five died during the same period in 2008.

"Our goal this year is zero," Batiste said. "We believe there's no reason for anyone to die in a traffic collision. All that's required is for people to make better choices."

This Labor Day's strategy also includes the general public. Batiste and Rupp are asking members of the public to report apparently intoxicated drivers.

"If you see someone who is obviously impaired and behind the wheel, that is an emergency. It's legal to use your cell phone to call 9-1-1 and we hope you will," Batiste said.

There were no cell phones in Bob Rupp's day.

"It wasn't until nearly the end of my career that we even had reliable two-way radio coverage," said Rupp. "I wonder how many lives we could have saved had citizens been able to report drunk drivers right from their cars?"

One more thing that WSP didn't have in Rupp's day: the ability to detect drivers who were impaired by drugs other than alcohol.

Both Batiste and Rupp recall arresting people who could hardly walk, let alone drive. Yet they registered a zero on breath testing machines.

"Now I know those people were likely impaired by some drug other than alcohol. In those days, we had no way to measure that, so we had to let those people go," Batiste said.

Batiste says nowadays almost every police agency has Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), courtesy of a training program administered by the State Patrol. Certified by the courts as experts they're usually able to name the exact drug based on physical symptoms shown by drug-impaired drivers.

Also on the road this weekend will be high-ranking WSP officials. In a tradition dating back to Rupp's era, senior commanders and troopers with non-line positions will be on the road for at least some portion of the weekend.

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