Fatal crashes involving drivers impaired by two or more drugs or combination of alcohol and drugs have more than doubled in six years
OLYMPIA, WA – Law enforcement agencies across Washington are increasing DUI (Driving Under the Influence) patrols from Dec. 13 through Dec. 31, to increase safety and keep impaired drivers off the roads this holiday season. Alarmingly, more than 100 people are arrested for impaired driving each day in Washington between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
Under Washington law, impaired driving includes driving while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs and other substances that can impair driving such as over-the-counter cold medications, and medications for sleep, allergies and pain. Last year, impaired driving killed 278 people and seriously injured 371 more on Washington roadways.
“The unfortunate truth is that there will be empty seats at family tables this holiday season due to loved ones killed by impaired drivers,” said Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “We call upon all residents to plan ahead to prevent these tragedies by avoiding driving after drinking, or using marijuana and other drugs.”
While alcohol most frequently comes to mind with the mention of impaired driving, Washington is seeing an alarming trend of increased fatal crashes with drivers impaired by two or more drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs—from 78 fatal crashes in 2011 to 171 last year. Misconceptions about marijuana use and driving could be a factor in this trend. A statewide roadside survey in 2015 found that 72 percent of Washington drivers did not think marijuana made any difference in their driving ability and 14 percent of those who admitted to driving after marijuana use felt that driving while high actually made them a better driver.
“Driving drunk or driving high is never acceptable. We want to ensure everyone makes it home safely from their holiday gatherings,” said Grondel. “If you can’t be a designated driver, choose to be the designated planner. There are so many options for planning to arrive home safely, from taxis, ridesharing apps and public transportation to arranging to stay overnight. Just a few minutes of advance planning can prevent a terrible tragedy and a costly arrest.”
Drivers convicted of DUI in Washington face a suspended license, a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail. More than 165 agencies across the state will participate in the increased patrols for drunk and drugged driving that start Dec. 13.
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