New Chair takes the helm as Association debuts updated policies and priorities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dr. Darrin Grondel, Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), was elected to chair the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) at the Association’s Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia late last month. Grondel will serve a one-year term for GHSA, the national nonprofit association of the state and territorial agencies that address behavioral traffic safety issues.
In this role, Grondel will work to advocate for and achieve GHSA’s policies and priorities, which the Association recently enhanced to reflect evolving traffic safety issues. Chief among these changes are provisions addressing substance-impaired driving, preparing for autonomous vehicle technologies, and ensuring the safety of all road users.
According to Grondel, the updates will guide the Association as it works toward zero deaths on America’s roadways. “With so many emerging threats, states need to focus on the basics of saving lives by ministering strong programs rather than administering bureaucracy.”
Having participated in the process of Washington’s implementation of legalized recreational marijuana sales, Grondel is dedicated to elevating the issue of drug-impaired driving. GHSA’s updated policy statements reflect the latest science and expert consensus to address drugged driving, including zero tolerance laws for illicit drugs, use of electronic warrants, and marijuana open container laws. GHSA policy also recognizes that the best available research has not identified a scientifically sound illegal per se limit for marijuana.
“Impairment is impairment, regardless of the substance,” Grondel said. “Combating this growing problem means having the research, funding and tools to effectively educate the public and equip and energize law enforcement.”
Also included in the Association’s new policies and priorities is a renewed encouragement for research, testing, and the deployment of connected, autonomous, and advanced driver assistance technologies. GHSA also adopted additional support for infrastructure-based countermeasures to promote the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians, and all other road users.
During his term as Chair, Grondel will advance GHSA’s policies by developing new and reinforcing existing partnerships, expanding member services and member involvement, and collaborating with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to carry out the national highway safety grant program. Prior to his election, Grondel was a member of the Association’s Executive Board for multiple terms and served as Secretary for the past three years. He has led WTSC since 2012 following a 25-year career with the Washington State Patrol.
Joining Grondel as GHSA Executive Officers for the upcoming year are Vice Chair Harris Blackwood, Director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety; Secretary Lauren Stewart, Director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety; and Treasurer Lee Axdahl, Director of the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety.
A complete copy of the policies and priorities document can be found at ghsa.org/sites/default/files/2018-09/policies18.pdf. A printed version will be mailed to all GHSA members.
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The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GHSAhq or follow us on Twitter @GHSAHQ.
New report shows spike in percentage of fatal crashes caused by drivers impaired by multiple substances
OLYMPIA, WA – Law enforcement agencies across Washington will increase DUI (Driving Under the Influence) patrols August 17 through September 3 to keep drivers safe during what is typically the deadliest time of the year on the state’s roadways.
More than 160 local law enforcement agencies and the Washington State Patrol will participate in the emphasis patrols in search of drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Drivers impaired by alcohol, marijuana and other drugs are involved in nearly half of all traffic deaths in Washington. In 2017 alone, 250 people were killed in such crashes.
“These tragedies are completely preventable,” said Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC). “As a community, we can end DUI-related deaths. We are asking for help. If you are in the position to prevent someone else from driving impaired, please be bold. Offer to call them a ride or give them a safe place to sober up.”
A new WTSC report provides insights into what has become the most common form of driver impairment — poly-drug use (two or more drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs). Beginning in 2012, the number of poly-drug impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes has increased by an average of 15 percent every year. 
As of 2016, one in four of all Washington traffic deaths involve a poly-drug impaired driver. The most common combination is alcohol and marijuana.
Misconceptions about marijuana use, especially among young drivers, could be one factor in this trend. A statewide roadside survey included in the WTSC report shows that of the young drivers (ages 15-20) who admit to driving after marijuana use, more than half believe marijuana makes their driving better.
“This is an especially dangerous belief if, for example, a driver uses marijuana to compensate for the consumption of another substance that impairs driving ability, such as alcohol,” said Staci Hoff, PhD, Research Director, WTSC. “The deadly consequence of combining these two particular substances is very apparent in all our fatal crash data.”
WTSC is encouraging people to “Make a Plan Before You Party” in order to get home safe.
“There are so many ways to travel safely, from taxis and ridesharing apps to public transportation, that driving drunk or driving high should never be an option.” said Grondel. “Just a few minutes of advance planning can prevent a terrible tragedy and costly arrest.”
For more information and ideas for making a plan before you party, visit wadrivetozero.com/DUI.
ABOUT WASHINGTON TRAFFIC SAFETY COMMISSION
The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) is the state’s designated highway safety office. We share a vision with other state and local public agencies to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries. For information on the Target Zero Plan, visit http://www.targetzero.com. Washington deadly crash data is available by state and county here: http://wtsc.wa.gov/research-data/quarterly-target-zero-data/.
Olympia – The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) would like to announce the hiring of Wade Alonzo as its new Program Director, effective July 2.
“We are pleased to welcome Wade to the Traffic Safety Commission. We’re excited for him to add his many talents to our team, and for his commitment to helping us work towards our goal of Target Zero,” said Pam Pannkuk, Deputy Director of WTSC.
Mr. Alonzo comes to the WTSC from the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, where he was the Boating Law Administrator. He and his staff managed two federally funded statewide programs: the Clean Vessel Program funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Recreational Boating Safety Program funded by the United States Coast Guard.
Mr. Alonzo holds a Masters of Business degree from Washington State University with an emphasis in marketing and a Bachelor’s degree in forest science from the University of Idaho. His other previous experience includes 17 years at the Department of Natural Resources in a wide variety of roles ranging from Constituent Relations Manager in the Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands, to aquatic lands district manager, forester, and wildland firefighter. Mr. Alonzo was also the Chair of National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Paddlesport Safety Committee and was a board member of the Western States Boating Administrators Association for five years. He resides in Tumwater with his wife and three children.
The WTSC wishes Mr. Alonzo’s predecessor, Myke Gable, all the best as he heads into retirement.
Olympia, WA – Ninety-five percent of Washington drivers and passengers use their seat belts according to a new report from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. That leaves only five percent of people who might be subject to seat belt tickets during the “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign.
The May 14 through June 3 extra seat belt enforcement campaign runs through Memorial Day, one of the busiest travel and holiday weekends of the year.
More than 150 law enforcement agencies throughout the state will be participating in this 17th annual Click it or Ticket campaign.
Wearing a seat belt is one of the most important and effective ways to survive in a crash. It’s simple, seat belts save lives. Drivers throughout Washington shared thoughts on why they buckle up in short videos, including Mervin Ward from Thurston County:
As well, in conjunction with the Click it or Ticket campaign, a national seat belt enforcement effort called Border to Border will take place on Monday, May 21 from 4 – 8 pm. It is a national seat belt awareness event involving states across the U.S. including Washington and Idaho.
Washington passed a secondary seat belt law in 1986 and the seat belt use rate that year was 36 percent. In the following years, Washington’s seat belt use rate rose and by 2002 the rate was 82 percent. During 2002, Washington passed a primary seat belt law and the seat belt use rate rose to 92 percent the very next year. The seat belt use rate has remained between 94 to 95 percent for the last several years. During the same time periods, the unrestrained fatality rate decreased dramatically from accounting for 64 percent of all traffic deaths to 18 percent of all traffic deaths.
OLYMPIA – They had suffered the ultimate loss. Three women lost loved ones in preventable car crashes and wanted to do anything they could to keep other families from experiencing the same pain. They came to Olympia determined to help lawmakers understand the need for a tougher distracted driving law. And they succeeded.
Gina Bagnariol-Benavides of Auburn, Lavera Wade of Spokane, and Tina Meyer of Arlington each received the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Public Service Award for high standards of achievements in the field of highway safety and contributions to the quality of life in the country. On Monday, April 23, 2018, NHTSA honored the three Washington State citizen advocates with its Public Service Award at the 2018 Lifesavers Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The women were recognized for their leadership in efforts to upgrade Washington’s distracted driving law during the 2017 legislative session, each traveling to Olympia to talk to legislators and testify on behalf of their grieving families.
Bagnariol-Benavides’ sister was killed in a crash involving a distracted driver. On July 17, 2016, Jody Bagnariol and her friend Elisabeth Rudolph were stopped in traffic on southbound I-5 when they were rear-ended by a driver travelling at 76 MPH. The woman who struck them admitted that her husband had been taking selfies with her from the passenger seat prior to the crash.
Tina Meyer’s son Cody was struck by a driver who was looking at his cell phone. Cody, a certified flagger, was directing traffic in a construction zone in December 2015 when the crash occurred. Cody died six months later from his injuries.
Lavera Wade’s grandson, Sam Thompson, died in September 2014 when he crossed the center line and hit a semi-truck head on. Sam had been texting at the time of the crash. He died just days before his 21st birthday.
“These women and their families experienced heart-wrenching loss, yet summoned the courage to lead the way on this legislative charge,” said Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director, Darrin Grondel. “Our hope is that the law will prevent more tragedies like theirs due to distracted driving.”
The new law went into effect July 23, 2017 and prohibits any hand-held use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving, stopped in traffic, or at a stop light. It restricts hands-free use to a single touch.
Bagnariol-Benavides, Wade, and Meyer were able to travel to receive their awards in person, thanks to a generous gift from Target Zero partner, The Driver Training Group, franchising entity for 911 and Swerve Driving Schools.
The NHTSA Public Service Awards recognize and honor individuals or organizations, who exemplify high standards of achievement in the field of traffic safety; and through his/her or the group’s accomplishments, have contributed to the quality of life in the community, state or nation. Nominations were limited to individuals and organizations who conduct these activities as volunteers or in a civic capacity. Award winners were nominated by NHTSA staff members and selected by senior NHTSA leadership.
The Lifesavers Conference is the nation’s largest assembly of highway safety professionals. The conference highlights and shares emerging traffic safety data, and issues, and exposes participants to proven life-saving programs and best practices that they can use in their individual jurisdictions. This year’s conference is being held April 22-24 in San Antonio, Texas and has drawn over 2,000 participants and 90 exhibitors.
State traffic safety advocates advise caution as “420 Day” approaches, an unofficial celebration dedicated to cannabis
Olympia – The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) released a report today on the significant increase of multiple drug (alcohol and other intoxicants), or poly-drug use, in drivers involved in deadly crashes.
Driver impairment is the most common factor in deadly crashes in Washington, present in more than half of all traffic deaths in 2016. Poly-drug use is the most common type of impairment and is double the number of alcohol-only drivers and five-times higher than the number of marijuana-only drivers. The report also shows that poly-drug use is an increasing factor in traffic fatalities.
“All studies agree that combining alcohol and marijuana inflates the level of driver impairment and crash risk,” said Staci Hoff, PhD, Research Director, Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “The deadly consequence of combining these two impairing substances is already apparent in Washington fatal crash data.”
Poly-drug use means that a driver’s blood test was positive for alcohol and a drug or multiple drugs. Among drivers who tested positive, nearly 45 percent tested positive for more than a single substance. The most common combination found together is alcohol and marijuana.
Information from several self-report surveys show that driving after using marijuana is common. Among young drivers who admit to driving after marijuana use, more than half believe marijuana makes their driving better. However, marijuana use effects many critical functions involved in driving including memory, reaction time, vision, and divided attention tasks.
Some people who use marijuana celebrate April 20 as a day to celebrate cannabis culture. “This report highlights the need to plan before you party, as marijuana and poly-drug use become more common in our state’s traffic deaths,” said Darrin Grondel, Director, Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “Simple planning, like choosing a designated driver, can prevent crashes, and that’s even more important if someone is using more than one substance.”
The full report can be viewed and downloaded at http://wtsc.wa.gov/research-data/traffic-safety-studies/
Poly-Drug Line Graph: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ethxcgurt6rcvbk/WTSC_PolyDrugCharts_April2018.pdf?dl=0
Poly-Drug Circle Graph: https://www.dropbox.com/s/p0rb1opxiojkw9r/WTSC_PolyDrugCharts_April2018%202.pdf?dl=0
Cell phone use while driving increases risk of crashing by three times
Olympia, WA – On the road, off the phone—That’s the message from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) as they announce extra patrols focused on distracted driving, April 2-14, 2018.
Statewide, over 150 law enforcement agencies will be out in force looking for distracted drivers.
Under the new “Driving Under the Influence of Electronics” (E-DUI) law, drivers may not hold cell phones or watch videos while they are driving, stopped in traffic, or at a stop light. This includes tablets, laptops, games, or any hand-held electronic devices. The law restricts hands-free use to a single touch.
“Our goal is to raise public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving,” said Erika Mascorro, program manager for WTSC. “Research shows that drivers are three times more likely to crash when talking on the phone, and 23 times more likely to crash when entering information into their phone.”
A statewide survey of Washington drivers found that 96 percent agree that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous, 88 percent said they don’t check social media while driving and most said they do not read incoming texts. Only one percent felt comfortable being a passenger in a car with a driver who was texting.
The WTSC is also announcing a PSA campaign that provides extra education to parents and caregivers. The message encourages them to stay off their phones in order to protect their passengers and model safe driving behavior for the next generation.
“We need to change the culture of distracted driving in our state,” said WTSC Deputy Director Pam Pannkuk. “We believe parents can lead the way in making this shift and model good driving behavior for their children.”
Nearly 1,500 drivers have been ticketed each month since Washington’s new E-DUI law began in July 2017. The first E-DUI ticket will cost drivers $136. If the driver incurs a second ticket within five years, the fine increases to $234. In addition, all information on cell phone infractions is now available to insurance companies.
Washington Drivers Caught Using Phones While Driving Will Now Receive $136 Ticket
Olympia, WA [January 23, 2018] – Today marks six-months since Governor Inslee signed the state’s new distracted driving law. Washington State Patrol (WSP) has ended the grace period for Washington drivers caught using electronic devices while driving. State Patrol and law enforcement officers across the state are now all issuing tickets to drivers who violate Washington’s distracted driving law—Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (E-DUI) Act.
Under the E-DUI law, drivers may not use hand-held cell phones or watch videos while they are driving, stopped in traffic, or at a stop light. This includes tablets, laptops, games, or any hand-held electronic devices. The law restricts hands-free use to a single touch.
Since the law took effect July 23, 2017, State Patrol officers have issued 6,475 distracted driving warnings statewide.
“When you drive distracted, you are putting both yourself and other drivers in danger,” said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “By eliminating distractions while driving, we will move closer to reaching the statewide Target Zero goal of no fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.”
Fatalities from distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington. And one out of four crashes involves cell phone use just prior to the crash.
The first E-DUI ticket will cost drivers $136. If the driver incurs a second ticket within five years, the fine increases to $234. In addition, all information on cell phone infractions is now available to insurance companies.
“All of the distracted driving crashes and fatalities we are seeing are completely preventable,” said Darrin Grondel, Director, Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “Washington’s law is a bold step toward changing the culture of phone use in the car and we believe it will have a profound impact on making our roads safer for drivers and pedestrians.”
Other types of dangerous distractions are also covered by the law. If, and only if, a driver commits another traffic violation (like running a red light), and that person was distracted by another activity besides an electronic device (for example, putting on makeup, shaving or reading), that driver can receive a $99 ticket for driving while ‘dangerously distracted.’