LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — When it comes to stopping drunk drivers, no Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper does it better than one in Jackson County.
Trooper Aaron Engelhart has arrested the most people on suspicion of driving while intoxicated among MSHP troopers in three of the past four years. In his 6-year career, Engelhart has made 684 DWI arrests. He had the most arrests of any trooper in the state with 175 in 2015, 181 in 2017 and 135 in 2018. In 2016 he broke his wrist, but still finished in the top ten.
One hundred eighty one is the all-time high for number of DWI arrests in one year by a MSHP trooper.
"You have people who are driving down the roads everywhere who are completely innocent, who are just driving to and from," Engelhart explained. "And they potentially happen to have their life interrupted by somebody who decided to be selfish, basically."
Statistics from the state in 2017 show drunk driving accounted for roughly 15 percent of all the traffic deaths on Missouri’s highways. Troopers said each one of those 122 drunk driving-related deaths could have been prevented if drivers had planned ahead to find a different way home.
"Still far too many people are making that bad choice to drive impaired. It's costly. If you get into a crash where someone is injured or killed, you'll pay for it for the rest of your life," MSHP Sgt. Collin Stosberg said.
Engelhart doesn't have a magic formula for finding drunk drivers. He said he simply makes finding drunk drivers a priority. There may be some advantages in that he works nights half the year and is based in Jackson County, the second most populous county in the state.
He said ever since he was in the academy, it's been a personal challenge for him to keep the highways safe by removing drunken drivers from the roads.
During a ride along, he told 41 Action News he doesn’t pull over every car. He watches for certain violations and tries to be efficient. One in three cars he pulled over in 2018 led to a DWI arrest.
"The ultimate goal is to not have to, if I don't have to arrest anybody doing this. It is completely preventable offense," Engelhart said.
Stosberg said if someone decides to drive drunk in Jackson County, it's not a matter of if, but when Engelhart or one his fellow troopers will arrest that person.