Washington Increases DUI Patrols Leading Up to Labor Day Weekend

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[1] 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. [2]

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/.

[1] Marijuana and Alcohol Involvement in Fatal Crashes in WA

[2] WTSC PolyDrug Charts, April 2018

WTSC Welcomes New Program Director

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.

Extra Seat Belt Enforcement: Most Washington Drivers Are Safe From Tickets

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.

Three Washington Women Wish They Hadn’t Won Traffic Safety Awards

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.

New Report Shows Multiple Drug Use Responsible for One in Four Washington Traffic Deaths in 2016

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

Washington Law Enforcement Steps Up Patrols for Distracted Driving

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.

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Patrols August 18 – September 4

OLYMPIA, WA –  Each summer in Washington State, an average of 149 people die in traffic crashes. That is the deadliest season of the year on our roads.

During all of 2016, impaired drivers were involved in crashes that resulted in 277 deaths and another 371 serious injuries. These crashes are tragic and adding to the tragedy, they are completely preventable.

That is why extra DUI patrols will be out statewide from August 18 through September 4. The patrols will be looking for drunk or drugged drivers, and will uphold all traffic laws.

Throughout the state there will be 145 local law enforcement agencies as well as the Washington State Patrol that will be canvassing the roadways in search of impaired drivers.

The importance of these patrols is close to the heart of Jack Fletcher of Battle Ground.  He was a happy and motivated teenager who loved snow-boarding, hiking, playing rugby and hanging out with his friends.  He loved fire science and serving as a cadet chief with the fire cadet program. When Jack graduated from Prairie High School in June 2014, he headed to Central Oregon on a full ride fire science scholarship with the Crook County Fire & Rescue’s student firefighter training program.

Six weeks later, everything changed. Jack headed home from school hoping to surprise his family and some visiting relatives, but he never reached them. Instead, a man who had been drinking beer and tequila shots with a friend was driving his big pick-up truck on the same highway in the opposite direction from Jack. Other drivers who called 911 reported that the truck driver was speeding and weaving across traffic lanes. He was traveling about 80 mph when he hit Jack’s car head-on.

The emergency responders didn’t think Jack would live, given the extent of his injuries. He spent five days in a coma. His right arm was broken in three places. Some fingers on his right hand suffered amputations.  His right eye is blind. The impact shattered almost every bone in his face. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t walk. The most severe damage — traumatic brain injury — altered his short-term memory, focus and attention.

He endured months of surgeries and a year of rehabilitation. In order to care for him, his mother had to quit her job. The medical costs were more than a half million dollars.

To protect his brain from further injury Jack can’t play rugby or go snowboarding. His dream of becoming a fire fighter has been put on hold.

None of this, however, has injured Jack’s spirit. Three years later, Jack hasn’t just survived, he has thrived. He has a new job with the Boys and Girls Club. He’s volunteering for Clark County Fire and Rescue. He is taking college courses. He is driving again, and he is talking, a lot. Jack frequently talks at high school assemblies, driver education programs, at the Portland Legacy Emanuel Hospital’s court-ordered DUI program, and at church groups, to share his story and encourage others to make good decisions.

His message: Drive sober and don’t let your friends drive if they’ve been drinking or using marijuana.
The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is designed to encourage all drivers to make the right choice. Designate a sober, drug-free driver, take a cab, catch a ride share, Uber, Lyft or walk with a friend.

The Impact of Impaired Driving…Too Many Deaths and Injuries During Summer

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Patrols August 18 – September 4

OLYMPIA, WA –  Each summer in Washington State, an average of 149 people die in traffic crashes. That is the deadliest season of the year on our roads.

During all of 2016, impaired drivers were involved in crashes that resulted in 277 deaths and another 371 serious injuries. These crashes are tragic and adding to the tragedy, they are completely preventable.

That is why extra DUI patrols will be out statewide from August 18 through September 4. The patrols will be looking for drunk or drugged drivers, and will uphold all traffic laws.

Throughout the state there will be 145 local law enforcement agencies as well as the Washington State Patrol that will be canvassing the roadways in search of impaired drivers.

The importance of these patrols is close to the heart of Jack Fletcher of Battle Ground.  He was a happy and motivated teenager who loved snow-boarding, hiking, playing rugby and hanging out with his friends.  He loved fire science and serving as a cadet chief with the fire cadet program. When Jack graduated from Prairie High School in June 2014, he headed to Central Oregon on a full ride fire science scholarship with the Crook County Fire & Rescue’s student firefighter training program.

Six weeks later, everything changed. Jack headed home from school hoping to surprise his family and some visiting relatives, but he never reached them. Instead, a man who had been drinking beer and tequila shots with a friend was driving his big pick-up truck on the same highway in the opposite direction from Jack. Other drivers who called 911 reported that the truck driver was speeding and weaving across traffic lanes. He was traveling about 80 mph when he hit Jack’s car head-on.

The emergency responders didn’t think Jack would live, given the extent of his injuries. He spent five days in a coma. His right arm was broken in three places. Some fingers on his right hand suffered amputations.  His right eye is blind. The impact shattered almost every bone in his face. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t walk. The most severe damage — traumatic brain injury — altered his short-term memory, focus and attention.

He endured months of surgeries and a year of rehabilitation. In order to care for him, his mother had to quit her job. The medical costs were more than a half million dollars.

To protect his brain from further injury Jack can’t play rugby or go snowboarding. His dream of becoming a fire fighter has been put on hold.

None of this, however, has injured Jack’s spirit. Three years later, Jack hasn’t just survived, he has thrived. He has a new job with the Boys and Girls Club. He’s volunteering for Clark County Fire and Rescue. He is taking college courses. He is driving again, and he is talking, a lot. Jack frequently talks at high school assemblies, driver education programs, at the Portland Legacy Emanuel Hospital’s court-ordered DUI program, and at church groups, to share his story and encourage others to make good decisions.

His message: Drive sober and don’t let your friends drive if they’ve been drinking or using marijuana.
The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is designed to encourage all drivers to make the right choice. Designate a sober, drug-free driver, take a cab, catch a ride share, Uber, Lyft or walk with a friend.

Motorcycle Safety Patrols Begin July 28

OLYMPIA, WA — More motorcycles travel on Washington’s roads in the summer months than any other time of the year. Unfortunately, summer is also the time when more motorcycle riders are killed or injured in crashes. In an effort to reduce these crashes, increased motorcycle safety patrols start July 28, and run through August 13 in Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties.

The patrols will focus on illegal driving behaviors by both motorcycle riders and other vehicle drivers. Approximately 20 law enforcement agencies in these counties, including the Washington State Patrol, will be working overtime focused on drivers and riders who commit traffic safety violations.

“Motorcyclists are especially vulnerable and continue to be over-represented in deadly crashes,” said WTSC Director Darrin Grondel. “These crashes are preventable and we are working together to end these tragic deaths.”

These patrols are part of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s (WTSC) motorcycle safety education campaign known as “It’s a Fine Line.” From 2014 through 2016, motorcycles made up just 4 percent of the registered vehicles on Washington’s roads, but accounted for nearly 15 percent of all traffic fatalities (223 of 1550). Of these fatal motorcycle crashes, 53 percent were single motorcycle crashes where no other vehicle was involved, and 75 percent were traced to causal factors committed by the motorcyclist. Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and alcohol, speeding, and running off the road are the main contributing factors in all motor vehicle deaths including motorcycles.

“Each summer in our state, we lose 35-40 people to motorcycle crashes, and that’s not acceptable,” Grondel added. “We want to ensure that everyone enjoys the ride and arrives home safely.”

The WTSC and participating law enforcement agencies condemn profiling. Trained and commissioned law enforcement officers will be conducting these patrols enforcing traffic violations as defined by Washington State laws.

For training videos and other information on the “It’s A Fine Line” motorcycle safety program in Washington, please visit http://itsafineline.com/

Washington Traffic Safety Commission Honors Tahoma Senior High School Senior

Tierra Wilson

OLYMPIA, WA — Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director Darrin T. Grondel honored Tierra Wilson, a student at Tahoma Senior High School, for her work to improve traffic safety among her peers. Ms. Wilson was recognized during Senior Awards Night at her high school on May 31, 2017.

Ms. Wilson also won the $2,500 Safe Driving Scholarship for submitting a video focusing on her work as a DECA state officer working with the Traffic Safety Commission promoting the Target Zero initiative. Her video entry can be viewed here, driving-tests.org/scholarship.

Her passion for sharing safe driving messages with her peers includes reminders to follow the intermediate driver rules, such as no passengers, no cell phone use, and following the night time driving restrictions. She sets the right example by always wearing her seat belt and never driving under the influence.

Click It or Ticket Seat Belt Enforcement: Keeping Families Alive

OLYMPIA, WA ~ As Washingtonians prepare for upcoming summer travel, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission emphasizes the simplest step in keeping families safe: buckle up. The national “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign will take place May 22 through June 4, concurrent with Memorial Day, one of the busiest travel and holiday weekends of the year.

“It’s more than just putting your own seat belt on in the car; it means making sure everyone else in your car is properly restrained, especially children,” said Cesi Velez, Project Manager of Washington’s Child Passenger Safety Program.

Motor vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of unintentional death among children. From 2011-2015, almost half (48 percent) of child fatalities caused by a vehicular collision had unknown or no restraint use; 15 percent of those were under 13 years of age and illegally riding in the front seat; and 21 percent were riding without a booster – restrained only by a lap/shoulder seat belt. The majority of these tragedies likely could have been avoided had these children been properly restrained. Unfortunately, Washington’s current child passenger safety law can be difficult to interpret.

Washington’s child passenger safety law (RCW 46.61.687) says:

Vehicle occupants of any age must be “properly” restrained:

  • Under the age of 8 or 4’9” tall – must ride in an appropriate car safety seat. It must be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Age 8 or taller than 4’9” – must use the seat belt correctly or continue use of a child safety seat.
  • Under the age of 13 – must ride in the back seat “where it is practical to do so.”

Safety advocates strongly encourage a child remain rear-facing in their child restraint until at least age 2; this provides them with the best protection of their spine, neck and head.

Statement of the WTSC on Gov. Jay Inslee Signing the “Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act”

OLYMPIA – The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) released the following statement from Director Darrin Grondel, in response to Governor Jay Inslee signing the “Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act (SB 5289)” today.

“Distracted driving is a major cause of crashes on Washington’s highways.  The new distracted driving law signed by the governor today will save lives.   Fatalities from distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington, and 71 percent of distracted drivers are engaging in the most dangerous distraction, using their cell phones behind the wheel.  With the passage and signing of the `Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act,’ the governor and legislature are taking needed action to address an urgent problem.
“With the governor vetoing the January 1, 2019 effective date, and the new law taking effect this July, the WTSC and the Washington State Patrol will be working together to educate the public about the new regulations to raise awareness and help ensure compliance.  Drivers will no longer be able to hold their phones while they drive, and hands-free can only be operated with a single touch.  However, the safest and simplest action motorists can take is to park your phone when you drive.
 “The WTSC is dedicated to reducing traffic fatalities to zero by 2030, and the new distracted driving law is a milestone on that journey.”

 

Moms Can Lead the Drive to End Distracted Driving

Sam Thompson’s mother Lisa in this powerful video being shared by mothers as a warning to their loved ones about distracted driving

OLYMPIA –The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) today called on mothers to take the lead in modeling safe driving behavior for their children by not holding a mobile phone or texting while they are driving.

“All mothers want their children to be safe,” said Erika Mascorro, program manager for WTSC. “Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity for moms to pledge to put their phones away when they drive, so their kids will learn safe driving behavior. Moms can teach the next generation of drivers:  park your phone when you drive.”

WTSC conducted a statewide survey in March of women 16-34, and found that 96 percent agree that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous. Despite understanding the risk, the survey also found that:

  • 96 percent have their phones on while driving;
  • 48 percent read incoming text messages;
  • 34 percent send text messages; and,
  • 12 percent look at social media while behind the wheel.

The survey also showed that women would stop using their phone while driving to model good behavior for their children, with 89 percent saying that would motivate them to put away their phones.

“One of the justifications people give for using their phones while driving is that ‘everyone is doing it,’” said Mascorro. “Mothers can start changing that perception for their kids, by showing them that the safe way to drive is with the cell phone off and put away.”

“We know there are too many distracted drivers in Washington,” said Mascorro. “But driver distraction doesn’t stand a chance if moms focus on the issue.”

Distracted driving is dangerous:Mothers who have lost children in crashes caused by distracted driving have led efforts to raise awareness and strengthen distracted driving laws. In a moving video released by WTSC, Lisa Thompson, whose son Sam was killed while texting, shared her thoughts on learning that texting behind the wheel had led to her son’s death. This video is also helping moms reach out to their children about the dangers of distracted driving; many mothers are “tagging” their children and other loved ones on the video on Facebook, in a post that has been viewed more than 150,000 times.  Watch video:  https://www.facebook.com/WATargetZero/videos/776501742497655/

  • Deaths from distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington.
  • Drivers are three-to-four times more likely to be in a crash when talking on a phone.
  • Studies indicate that hands-free is not safer than hand-held use.

The legislature has passed a new distracted driving law that prohibits hand-held cell phone use while driving.

The phone survey of Washington residents was conducted by SurveyUSA from March 7-16, of women aged 16-34 in Washington state. The sample size was 1,000, of whom 847 were drivers.

Outstanding Traffic Safety Task Force Coordinator Honored as Target Zero Manager of the Year

OLYMPIA – The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) honored Hilary Torres as its 2016 Target Zero Manager (TZM) of the Year. Torres is the TZM in Region 6, which is Clark and Skamania Counties. TZMs are traffic safety coordinators located throughout the state of Washington. These individuals support local efforts to assess the needs and capacity of communities that they serve in traffic safety efforts, and help to design and implement strategies to address those needs. The TZM network operates across the state of Washington and provides many resources to local law enforcement, providing guidance and support to their regions for High Visibility Enforcement (HVE) related activities. TZMs are an integral part of any successful HVE and traffic safety program in our state.

Hilary faced many challenges when she began her role as Region 6 TZM in January 2016. Clark and Skamania Counties had been without a TZM for some time and there was not a functioning task force to guide her learning. In addition, many law enforcement agencies had opted out of participating in WTSC-funded HVE programs. Hilary did not let that deter her and she hit the ground running. Over the past year, Hilary has developed the task force into a high-functioning unit. Her early strategies for success were focused on capacity building. She contacted local law enforcement agencies and built the task force up to where nearly every agency in the region is attending meetings and participating in HVE and other task force events.

“Hilary started this position with zero experience in traffic safety or law enforcement,” said Jerry Noviello, Local Coordination Program Manager at the WTSC. “But she takes every opportunity to learn from those around her, from her LEL and other local law enforcement in Clark County and other TZMs throughout the state, to WTSC staff in Olympia. It’s this quality that allows Hilary to excel at such a high level. She is always actively looking for successful programs and then seeks ways to learn every detail about them so that she can bring them back to Clark County.”

The WTSC also honored Officer Mark Brinkman of the Lynnwood Police Department (Region 10, Snohomish County), as its 2016 LEL of the Year. The awards were presented at the April 20th Washington Traffic Safety Commission quarterly meeting.

Law Enforcement Giving Extra Attention – and Tickets – To Distracted Drivers April 3-16

OLYMPIA, WA — “U Text, U Drive, U Pay” is the message the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) is sending to distracted drivers in April as part of “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”  Drivers using cell phones behind the wheel are not only at a higher risk for a crash, during April they face a greater chance they will be ticketed for their risky behavior.  Nearly 150 law enforcement agencies around the state are adding patrols looking specifically for those distracted by cell phones while operating their vehicles.

“This show of force calls attention to the public safety threat posed by drivers being distracted by texting or talking on their phones,” said Angie Ward, program manager at WTSC, who is funding the patrols.  “We want drivers to understand that you can operate a car.  Or you can operate your phone.  But you can’t be safe and do both at once.”

Statewide, nearly 150 law enforcement agencies (sheriff’s offices, police departments, plus the Washington State Patrol) will be out in force looking for distracted drivers.

This year’s distracted driving awareness month comes after news that fatalities from distracted driving increased by 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington, and a recent study by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission showing that 71 percent of distracted drivers are distracted by their cell phones – the most dangerous type of distraction.  Studies show that drivers are up to four times more likely to be in a crash when talking on the phone (hands free or hand held) and 23 times more likely to crash when entering information into their phones.

Under current Washington law, it is illegal to text or hold your phone to your ear while driving.  Violators pay a $136 minimum fine.

In 2014, citations for illegal cell phone use while driving increased 197 percent, the last year for which data is available.  Says Ward, “While more tickets are issued during the patrols, people should know they can be ticketed any time.  More than 2,000 tickets just for cell phone use were issued in November of 2014.”

The WTSC recommends that drivers adopt the following five common-sense rules:

  1. Turn off your phone and put it in the glove box.
  2. If you’re a passenger, hold the driver’s phone.
  3. Don’t text or call a friend or loved one if you know they are driving.
  4. If using GPS on your phone, plug in the address before you start the car and use a mounted phone holder.
  5. Talk to family members (especially teen drivers) about the risks of cell phone use. Model responsible behavior by not using your phone while in the car.

Washington law enforcement has been observing Distracted Driving Awareness Month with High Visibility Enforcement since 2014.  The focus is a part of Target Zero, a statewide initiative to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by the year 2030.   The WTSC is also placing distracted driving ads statewide, showing the consequences of a teen who texts while driving a car filled with her friends.  You can see the ad here. Drivers can also learn more about distracted driving at http://wadrivetozero.com/.

“Our goal is that everyone will become more aware of the dangers of driving distracted. It only takes one driver distracted for a few seconds to wreck lives forever.  We can avoid that – we just have to turn our phones off and turn safety on,” Ward said.

These extra patrols are part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030.

Washington State Award Winners Lead the Way On Improving Driver Licensing and Testing Standards

OLYMPIA – On Monday, March 27, 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) honored two Washington State citizen advocates with the NHTSA Public Service Award at the 2017 Lifesavers Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Citizen advocates Mi Ae Lipe of Bothell, WA, and Mark Butcher of Sammamish, WA each received the 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.

Specifically, Lipe and Butcher have volunteered multitudes of hours over the past five years to push the state towards strengthening driver license testing and training. They have asked government officials to take a closer look at how other countries with lower traffic death rates train and test drivers, in part because of the high rate of young driver involvement in deadly and serious crashes. For example, in Washington State from 2012–14, 16–25-year-old drivers made up only 14 percent of licensed drivers, yet they were involved in crashes resulting in 34 percent of all traffic deaths.  As a result of their work, Washington’s Target Zero® plan now includes a strategy of learning about other countries’ approaches to driver testing and training.

In September 2016, Lipe and Butcher led a group of six Washingtonians on a fact-finding tour of the traffic safety ecosystem in the UK, which has one of the world’s lowest traffic death rates and a vastly different driver training and testing environment than the US.

As the group explored the driver training system they noted that the training and testing of instructors, examiners, and students is more vigorous and detailed than US systems. The UK system emphasizes training in situational awareness, decision making skills, risk management, and behavioral attitudes. Their client-centered driver training approach encourages students to set their own pace for learning. The group also participated in training rides for examiners, instructors and students.

The tour also included a visit to an advanced street driver training organization. In the UK, drivers choose to take this advanced training to keep honing their skills in the years after they receive their license, regardless of age.

The group learned about the UK’s long-term approaches to road safety media campaigns with a visit to the Think! campaign headquarters.

“There is no way to quantify the contributions that Mi Ae and Mark have made to traffic safety in our state,” said Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director, Darrin Grondel. “While we know we could never adopt these other countries’ driver testing and training systems wholesale, we do think there are ways we can learn from them and Mark and Mi Ae are facilitating that work. I congratulate them on this well-deserved national recognition. We are honored that they are on our team to help carry out the strategies that will drive us to zero fatalities and serious injuries on our roadways.”

This year, NHTSA presented their top public service award to 13 individuals and organizations from around the country.

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 March 26-28 in Charlotte, NC and has drawn well over 2,000 participants and 90 exhibitors.

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 Department of Transportation is dedicated to safety, but we can’t do it alone,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “The NHTSA Public Service Award recipients help us improve safety each and every day across the country. We thank them for their service, for the difference they have made, and the example they are setting for others.”

New Statewide Survey Shows Cell Phone Use Greatest Cause of Distracted Driving

OLYMPIA, WA — The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) released the results today of a first-ever statewide observational survey of distracted drivers. The survey found that cell phone use is the most common type of distraction, with 71 percent of distracted drivers engaged with their phones while operating their vehicles. Statewide, nearly 1 out of 10 drivers in Washington State are distracted while driving, representing a distraction rate of 9.2 percent. Fatalities from distracted driving increased by 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington.

“Our goal is reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by the year 2030; we call this Target Zero,” said Angie Ward, program manager at the WTSC. “With fatalities from distracted driving increasing, and with drivers engaging in the riskiest type of distracting behavior — cell phone use — reducing distracted driving must become a higher priority.”

More than 22,300 vehicle drivers were observed in the WTSC survey, in 23 counties across the state. While cell phone use was the most frequent distraction, other distractions observed (29 percent) included behaviors such as eating, tuning a radio, or attending to pets or children.

Other research has shown that cell phone use has been found to increase the risk of crashes by three times. Entering text into a cell phone can increase crash risk by up to 23 times.

Cell phone use is particularly risky because it causes what experts refer to as “inattention blindness.”  One study by AAA found that it can take a driver 27 seconds to refocus on the road after using a cell phone – in which time a car moving at 25 mph can travel the length of three football fields. Says Ward, “Research shows that cell phone use causes poor driving more than any other potential distraction. Choosing to use your cell phone while driving is one of the riskiest things you can do. Unfortunately, our study shows that too many drivers are putting themselves, their passengers and others at risk.”

Ward also pointed to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Study that showed while two-thirds of drivers support restrictions on cell phone use while driving, 70 percent of these same drivers admit to doing it themselves.

In addition to pending legislation to confront the issue of distracted driving, the issue is also being addressed by the WTSC through its Target Zero programs, and by state law enforcement agencies, who are working toward eliminating distracted driving behaviors through enforcement and education efforts, including a coordinated, statewide distracted driving patrol scheduled for April 2017. The WTSC also promotes awareness of distracted driving dangers through high school education programs.

This distracted driving observational survey will be conducted biennially by the WTSC so that the Commission can track statewide efforts to reduce distracted driving behaviors. The goal of the WTSC is to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by the year 2030 (Target Zero). More information about Target Zero can be found atwww.targetzero.com.

The full report is available at http://wtsc.wa.gov/download/5986/

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The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) is our state’s designated highway safety office. We share a vision with numerous other state and local public agencies. That vision is to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030. The WTSC Director is the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative, which is a designated position each state is required to have in order to qualify for federal traffic safety funding. Our Commission is made up of 22 employees and ten Commissioners chaired by Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee.

http://wtsc.wa.gov/
@targetzero

Drugs Increase as a Factor in Traffic Deaths

Drunk, Drugs, or High, it’s a DUI
Extra DUI Patrols in Force for the Holidays

KING COUNTY, WA – Law enforcement agencies across the state are participating in extra patrols aimed at getting DUI drivers off the roads over this holiday season from December 15 to January 1.

“The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) funds these extra patrols because we want every family to enjoy the holidays with their loved ones,” said Darrin Grondel, WTSC director. “Unfortunately, we are very aware that deadly traffic crashes can turn holiday dreams into nightmares.”

“We are alarmed at recent increases in traffic deaths involving DUI, especially among drivers who test positive for two or more drugs, or both alcohol and drugs,” said Grondel. “Our agency is charged with examining every detail of every deadly crash. When we look at this data, we have to wonder why we are seeing so many deadly crashes where drivers are mixing drugs and alcohol” said Grondel.

An example of one such crash occurred on February 28, 2016 at 1:00 am. A 28-year-old man was driving under the combined influence of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. He entered I-5 near Tukwila driving the wrong way. As he traveled around a curve he crashed head-on into another vehicle traveling the correct direction around the same curve. The crash killed the impaired driver and seriously injured the other driver. Test results showed a blood alcohol level of 0.28 percent, 14 nanograms of THC (the psychoactive chemical in marijuana) and a low amount of cocaine. He was unbuckled at the time of the crash.

The map below shows this crash and all DUI crashes in Washington in 2015. “It makes it easy to see that nearly three times as many drivers involved in deadly DUI crashes had multiple substances in their bodies as those with only alcohol or a single drug,” said Grondel.

“So as we travel this season, I would like to remind Washingtonians that mixing alcohol, marijuana and other drugs with driving can have devastating consequences. Give the gift of life this holiday season. Talk to your friends and family. Ensure they drive sober or find an alternative ride.”

In King County, the Algona, Auburn, Bellevue, Black Diamond, Burien, Clyde Hill, Covington, Des Moines, Enumclaw, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Maple Valley, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Normandy Park, Pacific, Port of Seattle, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, SeaTac, Seattle, Shoreline, Snoqualmie, and Tukwila Police Departments, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, and the Washington State Patrol will be teaming up and participating in the extra patrols, with the support of the King County Target Zero Task Force.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission embraces Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030, but we can’t get there without you. Drive Sober and be part of our Target Zero Team. Remember—drunk, drugs or high, it’s a DUI. For more information, visit www.targetzero.com.

Impaired Driving Deadly Crashes, Washington, 2015

To view data about each crash, go to http://arcg.is/2gK5nTS

Tie Into Traffic Safety

Has a pebble ever hit your windshield? Isn’t it startling how such a tiny object can inflict such immediate and significant damage?

Now imagine instead of a pebble hitting your windshield, it’s a ladder, wheelbarrow, hammer, stack of wood, mattress or a piece of furniture. Now, imagine you and your family are driving behind a car carrying one (or more) of those objects.

On June 6, 2006, Matthew Reif of Arizona was driving home from his job as a heavy equipment operator when an unsecured 10-pound piece of scrap metal from a truck in front of him smashed through the windshield. The 29-year-old was killed on impact. Matthew was full of life, say his parents, Paul and Toby Reif, who add that he “lived to play lacrosse and was a gifted piano player.” In loving memory of Matthew, Secure Your Load, founded by Robin Abel of Seattle Washington, after an unsecured load left her daughter catastrophically injured, is launching its inaugural Secure Your Load Day on June 6, 2016.

Think those are just freak accidents? Think again.

According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, there are 51,000 incidents every year, killing 440 and injuring 10,000.  What’s worse? In states where unsecured loads are only subject to a meager littering fine, the incidents are much greater.

Speaking of litter: 40 percent of the litter on our roadways comes from unsecured loads and our states spend a combined $11.5 billion (that’s billion with a B) annually on litter clean-up.

Here’s another startling fact: A 20-pound object at 55 MPH has a force of 1000 pounds at impact.

Says Abel: “We put on our seatbelts and fasten our children in car seats so why is it that we think it’s OK to leave anything loose in the bed of our trucks and risk endangering others on the road?”

Driving with an unsecured load is both against the law and extremely dangerous. Thanks to Abel’s dedicated efforts, President Obama and Congress included load-securing recommendations to the states in the Fast Act of December 2015.

On June 6th, in honor of those whose lives have been impacted by unsecured loads and road debris and in an effort to make load-securing a standard practice, Abel urges everyone to share and heed this urgent traffic safety message.

“Secure Your Load as if everyone you love is driving in the car behind you,” Abel adds.

For more information, check out the Secure Your Load PSA.

If You’re Texting, You’re Not Driving

The following news release is a sample of the release sent to Kitsap County. Localized releases were sent statewide.

KITSAP COUNTY, WA – Heads up, Washington! April is Distracted Driving Awareness month, so make a commitment to leave your cell phone alone while you’re driving. Not only is it dangerous, but with extra officers looking for cell phone violators, you risk a ticket otherwise.

While many things can distract a driver, cell phones are the most dangerous. “Cell phones distract drivers differently than eating a hamburger or putting on make-up,” explains Angie Ward, Washington Traffic Safety Commission program manager.

“Holding a phone in your hand takes your hand off the wheel. Reading or entering data into your phone takes your eyes off the road. The biggest problem is that it takes your mind away from the tasks of driving.”

Cell phones cause crashes because they connect us to social and informational interchanges, explains Ward. This complex mental task creates a situation where a driver “looks” but doesn’t “see.”

Recent AAA research has shown that it takes nearly 30 seconds after ending the call or text for a driver’s mind to return its focus to driving.

One in ten drivers and one-third of pedestrians were distracted by cell phone use, according to two studies conducted by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle.

“Taken together, this research has serious implications for people who think it’s safe to dial or send a text message at a stoplight” said Dr. Beth Ebel lead author of the Harborview studies. “Even if drivers stop talking or texting before the light turns green, they still don’t take in all the important elements in their surroundings for another 30 seconds. Couple this with pedestrians who may also be distracted and it’s a recipe for a trip to the emergency room, or worse.”

One out of five deadly crashes and one out of three serious injury crashes happen at or near an intersection, Ward notes.

For the third consecutive year, Washington law enforcement officers will join the national campaign aimed at curbing the temptation of drivers to use their phones. Extra patrols will run from April 1-14, 2016.

These extra patrols are part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030. For more information, visit www.targetzero.com. Additional information about the Washington Traffic Safety Commission can be found at www.wtsc.wa.gov.

Outstanding Lynnwood Police Officer Honored as Local Law Enforcement Liaison of the Year

OLYMPIA – The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) honored Officer Mark Brinkman of the Lynnwood Police Department as its 2016 Law Enforcement Liaison (LEL) of the Year. Local LELs support traffic safety task forces and their coordinators, called Target Zero Managers (TZMs), in regions around Washington State. They serve as the “go-to” person for law enforcement agencies during High Visibility Enforcement (HVE) campaigns organized by that region’s task force.

Officer Brinkman is described as truly dedicated to the HVE traffic safety model in Region 10 (Snohomish County), and works hard behind the scenes of these emphasis patrols. He is known for donating his own time, even after his LEL funding has been spent. For the better part of a year, Region 10 was without a TZM, and Officer Brinkman did an immense amount of work to keep the program going. He worked with 2 interim TZMs, and at times, acted as the interim TZM himself.  He managed meetings, coordinated HVE patrols, kept the appropriate paperwork in line for WTSC, and did this work until the current TZM, Stacey McShane, was hired.

“I am fortunate to have known Officer Brinkman for the past 15-20 years due to our paths crossing in the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) and LEL world,” said Bob Thompson, Washington’s Statewide LEL. “He is an outstanding DRE instructor as well as an outstanding local LEL in Snohomish County. Washington State is very fortunate to have an officer with the dedication and determination that Mark exhibits constantly. He has been a pleasure to work with and is definitely deserving of this recognition.”

The WTSC also honored Hilary Torres, Region 6 (Clark and Skamania Counties), as its 2016 TZM of the Year. The awards were presented at the April 20th Washington Traffic Safety Commission quarterly meeting.

Include a Safe and Sober Ride Home in Your Holiday Festivities

The following news release is a sample of the release sent to Yakima and Klickitat Counties. Localized releases were sent statewide.

Yakima and Klickitat Counties, WA – The holiday season is nearly upon us, and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) would like to remind Washingtonians to plan ahead and use alternative transportation after drinking alcohol or using marijuana during celebrations.

“The Yakima Police Department would like to encourage you to have a safe and joyous holiday season.  We will be conducting extra patrols, therefore, if your festivities involve alcohol or marijuana  please take care of each other and find a safe ride home,” said Sgt. Chance Belton of the Yakima Police Department.
Preliminary Fatality Analysis Reporting (FARS) data shows more than 500 traffic deaths so far in 2015, nearly 100 more reported deaths than this time last year.

“We have seen an unfortunate increase in traffic deaths this year,” said Darrin Grondel, WTSC director, “By encouraging people to plan ahead over the holiday party season, and to ensure a sober ride home, we hope our state will experience zero traffic deaths in December and through the New Year.”

Extra DUI enforcement patrols statewide began November 26 and will end January 1.

“As the holiday season is upon us, the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office encourages you to celebrate safely and responsibly. We will be adding extra patrols countywide in our effort to provide the safest roadways to our citizens and visitors. If you chose to drink alcohol or use Marijuana please don’t drive. Have a Safe and Happy Holiday season,” said Sgt. Joe Riggers, of the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office.
In Yakima and Klickitat Counties the Grandview and Yakima Police Departments, the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol will be teaming up and participating in the extra patrols, with the support of the Yakima and Klickitat County Traffic Safety Task Force.

Report Examines Marijuana Positive Drivers Involved in Deadly Crashes

Olympia, WA – Since Washington legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana, many have asked the Washington Traffic Safety Commission how this change may impact traffic safety. The Commission took the first step toward understanding the issue by releasing a new report today providing a detailed examination of marijuana positive drivers involved in deadly crashes.

This is the first time in Washington that crash data on marijuana positive drivers has distinguished between drivers who test positive for THC, the impairing substance in marijuana, and those who have residual marijuana, called carboxy, in their system from prior use which may have occurred days ago. This study categorizes marijuana positive drivers into mutually exclusive categories based on the total results of their blood tests.

In Washington, impaired driving is the leading factor in traffic deaths. This includes drivers who are impaired due to alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs—prescription or illegal.

Observations

Most drivers received both alcohol and drug testing. The State Toxicology Laboratory tested blood samples for both alcohol and drugs for 1,773 drivers involved in deadly crashes between 2010 and 2014. Of these 1,773 drivers tested, nearly 60 percent (1,061) were positive for alcohol, marijuana, or drugs.

Most drivers who were tested had multiple substances in their system. Among drivers with positive test results, the largest percentage showed combinations of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. Approximately one-third revealed alcohol only (34 percent), and eight percent tested positive for marijuana only.

Marijuana is the most frequently found drug. Not including alcohol, marijuana continues to be the most frequently-occurring drug among drivers involved in deadly crashes. By itself or in combinations with alcohol and other drugs, 349 drivers tested positive for marijuana.

The report further separates these drivers by those positive for THC and those positive for carboxy.

More drivers tested positive for THC. In 2014, of the 89 drivers who tested positive for marijuana 75 of them (84 percent) were positive for THC. This is much higher than 2010 when 81 drivers were positive for marijuana and 36 (44 percent) of those were positive for THC.

Half of THC positive drivers are above 5 ng/ml. In 2014, among the 75 drivers involved in deadly crashes who tested positive for THC, about half exceeded the 5 ng/ml per se limit.

THC is increasing while alcohol is decreasing. The 75 THC-positive drivers in 2014 comprised the highest number of THC-positive drivers in any year during the five-year period studied. The 51 drivers who only had alcohol in their systems (and were over the per se limit) in 2014 were the lowest number of such drivers in the study period.

Most THC positive drivers are young men. When looking at drivers positive for THC, either THC-only or in addition to alcohol above the per se limit, nearly 40 percent were men ages 16-25.

Drivers combining marijuana and alcohol showed increased risk. Drivers who combined alcohol and marijuana were frequently unbuckled, unlicensed and speeding.

THC positive drivers were more likely to be involved in daytime crashes. A majority of deadly crashes involving drivers with THC alone, or in combination with other drugs, except alcohol, occurred during the daytime hours. A majority of deadly crashes involving drivers with alcohol above the per se limit, alone or in combination with marijuana or other drugs, occurred during the nighttime hours.

The attached table shows the mutually exclusive categories of drivers involved in deadly crashes by toxicology results. The full report, “Driver Toxicology Testing and the Involvement of Marijuana in Fatal Crashes, 2010-2014,” is available at http://wtsc.wa.gov/download/5202/.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission embraces Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030, but we can’t get there without you. Driver Sober and be part of our Target Zero Team. Remember, drunk, drugs or high, it’s a DUI. For more information, visit www.targetzero.com.

Marijuana Increased in 2014 as a Factor in Deadly Crashes

Olympia, WA – Newly released data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) shows that marijuana is increasing as a factor in deadly crashes. The number of drivers involved in deadly crashes who tested positive for marijuana increased 48 percent from 2013 to 2014.

“We have seen marijuana involvement in fatal crashes remain steady over the years, and then it just spiked in 2014,” said Dr. Staci Hoff, WTSC Data and Research Director.

From 2010-2014, nearly 60 percent of drivers involved in fatal collisions were tested for drugs. Among these tested drivers, approximately 20 percent (349 drivers) were positive for marijuana.

However, just testing positive for marijuana doesn’t necessarily indicate if a driver was actually affected by the drug at the time of the crash since marijuana can be detected in a person’s blood for days (possibly weeks) after a person uses the drug. This new data is able to distinguish between drivers who test positive for THC, the impairing substance in marijuana and those who have residual marijuana in their system from prior use which may have occurred days ago.

The number of drivers testing positive for active THC increased, from 65 percent (38 of 60 drivers) in 2013 to an alarming 85 percent (75 of 89 drivers) in 2014. Approximately half of these THC-positive drivers exceeded the 5 ng/ml THC per se limit (A “per se” limit is the amount of a substance in a person’s blood that according to Washington law makes the person DUI notwithstanding other evidence.)

“With this data we are finally able to see who was high during the crash versus which drivers had used marijuana in the past few days,” said Hoff, “The answer in 2014 is most of them were high.”

According to the new data, the driver with the highest THC level was tested at 70 ng/ml.  Half of these THC-positive drivers were also under the influence of alcohol, the majority of those also exceeded the alcohol per se limit of 0.08 BAC.

The largest increase in THC-positive drivers were among males ages 21-25, from only 6 in 2013 up to 19 in 2014 – the most significant increase among any other age group.

The WTSC Research and Data Division, in collaboration with the WA State Patrol Toxicology Lab, abstracted drug types and levels for drivers in fatal crashes back to 2008. The full report and complete analysis of this data is expected to be released in September.

“This study is a step towards answering the myriad of questions we have about the impact of legalized marijuana on driving. We will continue to explore the implications of this information,” said Hoff.

A new law prohibits drivers and passengers from using marijuana while driving. It also prohibits anyone from keeping marijuana in the vehicle unless it is in its original sealed packaging or is stored in the trunk or some other area of the car not normally occupied by people.

“This data shows why this new law is so important,” said Darrin Grondel, WTSC Director, referring to the new statute passed during this year’s legislative session.

From 2008 through 2014, more than 1,100 people died in impaired collisions in Washington. Impaired driving is involved in nearly half of all traffic deaths and more than 20 percent of serious injury collisions. The highest percentage of these deaths occurs during the summer months.

That is why the WTSC participates in the National Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign. From now through Labor Day, the Commission is letting the public know that extra officers will be out across the state at times and locations where DUI is a problem.

“It is our hope that by publicizing these extra patrols more people will plan ahead if they will be drinking or using marijuana,” said Grondel. “Don’t risk getting arrested for a DUI, or causing a life-changing tragedy. Designate a sober, drug-free driver.”

Over 100 law enforcement agencies including all districts of the Washington State Patrol will be teaming up and participating in the extra patrols all across the state.

These extra patrols are part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030. For more information, visit www.targetzero.com.

“U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign to begin in April

Olympia, WA – For the second year in a row, more than 100 law enforcement agencies in Washington State will be cracking down on distracted drivers as part of the national distracted driving enforcement campaign.

Between April 1 and April 15, high visibility enforcement efforts will target motorists who are observed talking on handheld cell phones and sending text messages. The slogan of the national campaign is “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”

A kick-off event for the campaign will take place in Spokane on April 1. At the event, Jim and Lisa Thompson will unveil a road sign to be erected this spring at the site near Colfax where their son, Sam, died after he crossed the center line while texting and driving. The statewide patrols will be conducted in honor of Sam.

Results of the Drive Hammered, Get Nailed Campaign In Whatcom County Announced Today

This is one sample of news releases customized by county throughout the state.

Whatcom County, WA – The results are in from the recent Drive Hammered, Get Nailed enforcement campaign conducted from August 17 through September 3.

In Whatcom County, 42 motorists were stopped and arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), and statewide, law enforcement officers arrested 1,603 drivers for DUI. Last year in Whatcom County, during the same time period, officers on routine and extra patrols arrested 52 people for DUI.

In Whatcom County, Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden and Western Washington University Police Departments, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, and the Washington State Patrol participated in the extra DUI patrols, with the support of the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force. The extra patrols were funded by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

These patrols are important because August is one of the deadliest months on Washington’s roadways.

Survey Says: Marijuana and Driving Don’t Mix

Skagit and Island Counties, WA – A new survey of drivers shows 7 out of 10 have used marijuana and almost half of those have recently driven within a couple of hours after marijuana use. If you or someone you know uses marijuana and drives while high, beware—extra DUI patrols are happening statewide this Holiday season between now and January 1, 2015.

According to preliminary results of a June survey measuring driver impairment on Washington’s roads, nearly 90 percent of those same drivers said they did not think marijuana degraded their driving ability, despite research showing that driving while high doubles your chance of killing yourself or others in a crash. In fact, 25 percent of those respondents felt that driving while high made them a better driver.

“It’s extremely troubling to me that so many marijuana users think that driving high is not a problem. It’s a serious problem,” said Darrin Grondel, Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director.

From 2009 through 2013, more than 1000 people died in impaired driving collisions in Washington. Impaired driving is involved in nearly half of all traffic deaths and more than 20 percent of serious injury collisions.

In addition to those tragic consequences, a DUI arrest comes with heavy penalties. A DUI arrest carries up to a year in jail, a $5,000 fine, and a loss of a driver’s license. DUI offenders can also be ordered to wear electronic ankle bracelet. Many must install an ignition interlock device, which prevents a car from starting if the driver has been drinking. Defense attorney fees can cost as much as $10,000, and insurance rates can double.

In Skagit and Island Counties, the Anacortes, Burlington, Mount Vernon, Oak Harbor, Sedro Woolley and Swinomish Tribal Police Departments, the Skagit and Island County Sheriff’s Offices, the Coupeville Marshal’s Office and the Washington State Patrol will be teaming up and participating in the extra patrols, with the support of the Skagit County Traffic Safety Task Force.

All of these extra patrols are part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030. For more information, visit www.targetzero.com.

Additional information on the PIRE survey and results can be found at www.wtsc.wa.gov/pire

State and National Highway Safety Officials Mourn the Passing of Highly Regarded Retired Research Director

OLYMPIA, WA — Former Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) Research Director Phillip M. Salzberg passed away November 8, 2014, at St. Peter’s Hospital in Olympia after undergoing heart surgery.

Phil was born in Berkeley California, on June 19, 1947. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated from U.C. Davis with a B.A. in psychology, received a master’s degree from Sacramento State University, and went on to obtain his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Colorado in 1974. After spending a brief period in academia with the University of Washington and City University, he turned to doing what he called ‘applied research’ for the State of Washington. In 1976, he began his professional career with the Washington Department of Motor Vehicles, later called the Department of Licensing. In 1990, he became Research Director at the WTSC, where he served until his retirement in 2006. He was a published author with many important and creative research studies and papers to his name. His research findings have informed the vast majority of Washington’s statutory and policy innovations in traffic safety for nearly forty years.

“He was a well-respected colleague, boss, mentor, and good friend to all of us who had the opportunity to know him and work with him,” said WTSC Director Darrin Grondel. “Phil’s dedication to traffic safety research shaped and guided many programs and projects that made our roads safer for Washington motorists. The love he had for this work was evident when he continued to provide input on research projects well after his retirement. Phil’s life was proof that if you love your job, it never really feels like work.”

Though he loved his research work, Phil’s family was the center of his life. He is survived by his wife, Vicki, daughters Sarah and Emily and their husbands, and four grandchildren. A celebration of Phil’s life will be held at the end of January 2015. At the family’s request, contributions in Phil’s honor can be made to Providence Animal Assisted Activities and Therapy at St. Peter’s Hospital in Olympia.

Speed Knowledge and Awareness Survey

Take the survey here.

Thanks in advance for taking the time!
Director Darrin Grondel

Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation: PIRE

Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) is one of the nation’s preeminent independent, nonprofit organizations focusing on individual and social problems associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs. PIRE is dedicated to merging scientific knowledge and proven practice to create solutions that improve the health, safety, and well-being of individuals, communities, nations and the world. http://www.pire.org

Chris Madill Appointed Traffic Safety Commission Deputy Director

Olympia, WA — The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) announced today that Chris Madill has been appointed Deputy Director, effective July 1.

Mr. Madill began with the agency in January 2005 as a program manager and has served as Director of the Programs and Services Division since 2012.

“We are pleased to welcome Chris into his new role as Deputy Director. He has unparalleled dedication to public service and is committed to our goal of Target Zero,” said Darrin Grondel, Director of WTSC.

Mr. Madill graduated with a degree in Psychology from Brigham Young University and received his master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University.

Campaign to Highlight “Drive High, Get a DUI”

Extra Summer DUI Patrols Kick Off July 1

(OLYMPIA, WA) With marijuana retail stores slated to open in early July, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) is launching a campaign to remind those planning on patronizing the new businesses that driving high is illegal. The campaign is called “Drive High, Get a DUI.”

The new messaging coincides with Summertime DUI emphasis patrols kicking off July 1 and will feature three 30-second television commercials. The Colorado Department of Transportation produced and aired the commercials in Colorado earlier this year as part of their efforts to combat high driving.

The ads show individuals attempting activities while high. On-screen text points out that while it’s now legal to do these things while high, it is still not legal to drive under the influence of marijuana. You can view the ads here:

Although Initiative 502 did not provide funding for public education prior to legalization, the WTSC believes this campaign is critical to preventing impaired driving.

Everyone Has a Responsibility to Keep Motorcyclists Safe

OLYMPIA — Summer is here and the Department of Licensing, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, and the Department of Transportation are reminding drivers of cars, trucks and buses to look out for, and share the road with, motorcycle riders.

To raise awareness about tragic but preventable motorcycle crashes, 17 large road signs are scheduled to be installed this summer in locations across Washington where fatal motorcycle crashes are highest. These signs should remain in place for 10 to 15 years.

“Increasing safe motorcycle riding and cooperation among all road users is essential to reaching Washington’s goal of zero traffic deaths by 2030,” Governor Jay Inslee said. “Motorists and motorcyclists are all responsible for making sure everyone arrives home safely.”

In Washington, motorcycle deaths are not steadily declining like overall traffic deaths. Motorcycles make up just 4 percent of the registered vehicles on our roads, but account for almost 15 percent of the traffic fatalities (2009-2011 average). Even worse, in 2012, motorcycle fatalities accounted for 19 percent (83 out of 438) of the total traffic fatalities in our state.

On a per-vehicle-mile basis, motorcyclists are more than 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of cars, and five times more likely to be injured. Speeding, running off the road, and riding under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs are the main contributing factors in these crashes. Motorcyclists should always ride sober and within the posted speed limits, get the required training and endorsement, and wear DOT compliant helmets and protective gear.

In Pursuit of Unbuckled AND Distracted Drivers

“Click it or Ticket” Patrols Take on Texters and Talkers

This is one sample of news releases customized by county throughout the state.

SPOKANE, WHITMAN, PEND OREILLE, AND FERRY COUNTIES, WA – Ever wonder why Washington has one of the highest seat belt use rates in the country? It is due, in large part, to the highly visible “Click It or Ticket” campaign which includes publicity, extra enforcement, and signage. In June 2002, when the primary seat belt law went into effect, approximately 82 percent of Washington drivers wore seat belts and today, nearly 97 percent of Washington drivers are buckling up. Now, it’s time to focus on another important traffic safety concern – distracted drivers who are texting and talking on their cell phones!

Between May 20 and June 2, motorists in Spokane, Whitman, Pend Oreille and Ferry Counties can expect to see law enforcement patrolling city and county roads in search of unbuckled drivers and passengers and drivers using their cell phones.

Last year, during this same time period, officers on routine and extra patrols statewide issued 3,171 seat belt violations amongst the 11,047 motorists who were stopped.

Similarly, last year during this time period, 1,059 cell phone violations were written.  However, taking a historical look, in 2010, (the same year cell phone use became a primary law in Washington), only 63 drivers were cited statewide.

In Spokane, Whitman, Pend Oreille and Ferry Counties, the Cheney, City of Airway Heights, Colfax, Eastern Washington University, Pullman, Republic, Spokane, Spokane Valley and Washington State University Police Departments, the Ferry, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Whitman County Sheriff’s Offices as well as the Washington State Patrol will be teaming up and participating in these extra patrols, with the support of the Spokane County Target Zero Task Force.

These and all extra patrols are part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030.

“These programs are one reason that Washington State is a national leader in traffic safety,” says WSTC Commissioner and Spokane City Councilmember Jon Snyder. “The goal of Target Zero is to eventually eliminate traffic deaths in our state.”

For more information, visit www.targetzero.com.

“DRIVE 1st ARRIVE SAFE” Project Launches on March 27th

Yakima and Union Gap secure funding to help with dangerous roadways

UNION GAP, WA – On Wednesday March 27th at 1:00pm at the corner of Old Town Road and 1st /Main Street, Mayors Micah Cawley and Roger Wentz will be joined by concerned citizens and local agencies to launch the Yakima-Union Gap Traffic Safety Project, a two year effort to improve traffic safety along 1st /Main and Nob Hill Boulevard. This project will bring grant funds for low-cost engineering fixes and extra law enforcement patrols.

The launch will begin with the unveiling of road signs that will be installed along the corridor to remind drivers that it is a safety emphasis roadway. Following the unveiling, patrol cars and motorcycles from Yakima Police Department, Union Gap Police Department, Yakima Sheriff’s Office, and the Washington State Patrol will be released by Mayor Cawley and Mayor Wentz to start increased law enforcement safety patrols.

The 1st /Main and Nob Hill Traffic Safety Project is a two year project designed to make these roadways safer for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists and to reduce traffic crashes using low cost solutions through engineering, education and enforcement efforts. For the past year, local and state agencies have been working with community members and businesses to identify issues and develop data driven solutions for improving safety along 1st /Main and Nob Hill Boulevard, following a proven strategy employed by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission at many locations across the state. The primary goal of the project is to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on these roadways.

Motorists and pedestrians will see:

  • Increased police and liquor enforcement patrols
  • Upgraded traffic signals for drivers and pedestrians
  • Improved nighttime visibility
  • Improved sidewalks
  • Increased driver and pedestrian awareness of safety issues; and
  • Reinforcement of safe behaviors for drivers and pedestrians

Traffic Safety Activist Nancy Mathews Dies at Age 70

ANACORTES, WA — Longtime traffic safety activist, Nancy Mathews, lost her battle with cancer on March 9, 2013 after being diagnosed in December. Nancy died in her home in Anacortes and was surrounded by family.

Nancy was born January 6, 1943. She lived in Anacortes until attending the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. She moved to Renton and worked in city government as a councilwoman and was the driving force behind the expansion of Coulon Park.

Nancy later worked at the Kent Police Department and was instrumental in the establishment of traffic safety task forces in Washington State and their success. In 1983, Nancy was appointed as Coordinator of the Kent Drinking/Driver Task Force, which was one of the first traffic safety task forces in the State of Washington.

When she retired in 2006, she received a Superstars of Traffic Safety for lifetime achievement award, as the Kent Drinking Driver Task Force had been in existence for 23 years and the city had no alcohol-involved teen fatalities in 10 years.

Nancy’s involvement in traffic safety enabled the continued existence of the Target Zero Task Forces and saved many lives.

At the family’s request, contributions in Nancy’s honor can be made to the Kent Police Department Youth Board at the Kent Police Department, 220 4th Avenue South, Kent, WA 98032.

For more information on the Kent Police Department Youth Board, visit kentwa.gov/content.aspx?id=1350.

 

Be Smart, Don’t Rely on Luck

This is one sample of news releases customized by county throughout the state.

Cowlitz County, WA – As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, remember finding a designated driver isn’t luck, it’s smart. Make sure you and your friends get home safely.

The Cowlitz County Traffic Safety Task Force is reminding drivers not to get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking alcohol. Extra patrols will be going on during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, between March 14 and 17, where local law enforcement agencies will be actively looking for impaired drivers. Participating in these St. Patrick’s Day patrols are the Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, Longview andWoodland Police Departments, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol.

“Whether you are gathering with friends at the local bar, or a private party, if alcohol is part of the festivities, following a simple plan will save you a lot of headaches,” said Samantha Thompson, Cowlitz County Target Zero manager. A DUI arrest is not the worst that can happen, you can be charged with vehicular homicide or vehicular assault if someone is killed or injured while you were driving impaired. Last July, the penalty for vehicular homicide in Washington State increased from 61 months to 78 months.

Washington State has a plan to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries to Zero by the year 2030 through a variety of strategies, including education, engineering, emergency medical services, and enforcement. One person is killed every 53 minutes in a drunk-driving crash in the United States, the majority of these crashes involve drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher. Twice the per se limit of .08.

To prevent these tragedies from occurring, the “Target Zero” task force recommends the following steps to have a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day:
• Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin.
• Before drinking, designate a sober driver and leave your car keys at home.
• If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member.
• If you see an impaired driver, call 911.
• And remember, if you know people who are about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get where they’re going safely.

 

Results of the State’s first-ever Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign Announced

This is one sample of news releases customized by county throughout the state.

LEWIS COUNTY, WA – The results are in from the recent Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over DUI enforcement campaign conducted from November 21, 2012 through January 1, 2013.

In Lewis County, 52 motorists were stopped and arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), and statewide, law enforcement officers arrested 3,446 drivers for DUI. Last year in Lewis County, during the same time period, officers on routine and extra patrols arrested 38 people for DUI.

In Lewis County, the Centralia, Chehalis, Morton, Toledo, and Winlock Police Departments, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol participated in the extra DUI patrols, with the support of the Lewis County Traffic Safety Task Force. The extra patrols were funded by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

The Holiday season is an important time for these patrols, given the number of Holiday festivities that often involve alcohol

Washington drivers have attitudes, knowledge, and awareness

OLYMPIA, WA — Three quarters of surveyed Washington drivers thought they were likely to get a ticket for going 68 MPH on a freeway posted for 60 MPH. Over 90 percent thought they were likely to get arrested if they drove drunk. A third of drivers age 18-24 said they sent or received a text message or email while driving. These findings are in a report released today by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC).

Beginning in 2010, states are to survey residents annually on their opinions about driving and their awareness of enforcement campaigns. The 2011 Washington Driver Survey Report is available on the WTSC website.

The basic set of survey questions on self-reported seat belt use, impaired driving, and speeding was designed and tested at the national level. Washington State added a question on driver cell phone use.

Survey results are used by WTSC to track trends and evaluate the effectiveness of programs, particularly with drivers involved in fatal crashes.

Darrin Grondel, Director of the WTSC, expanded, “Evaluating drivers’ attitudes and awareness is very important to us. This information shows us the best ways we can reach our goals in Target Zero.”

Target Zero is Washington State’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan with a vision of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who funds the survey, can use core outcome and behavior measures as part of its reporting to Congress and the public.

Don’t Let a DUI Ruin Your Holidays – Drive Sober Ignition Interlocks, a DUI Penalty, are Costly

This is one sample of news releases customized by county throughout the state.

WALLA WALLA-ASOTIN-GARFIELD COUNTIES, WA — Lynn Ross spent more than $1,200 paying for the ignition interlock that he had to have installed on his Dodge truck as a result of a DUI conviction.

The device is about the size of a cell phone with a tube for breath samples. Like many in Walla Walla, Asotin and Garfield Counties, Mr. Ross, a Spokane Valley resident, had to blow into it every time he started his truck every day for 14 months. The truck would only start if there was no alcohol in his system.

Despite the cost and the hassle—he had to switch to alcohol-free mouthwash and wait for a few minutes in the morning for the machine to warm up—Mr. Ross, a union carpenter, is thankful for the ignition interlock program. “It’s a good program,” he said recently, “It kept me from drinking and helped me get my license back.” Keeping the ability to legally drive, even during his suspension period, meant being able to keep his job since his work requires him to travel throughout the northwest region. “I wouldn’t have a job if I couldn’t drive.”

“It was a very positive experience for me,” he said, “but I was done drinking.” For someone who was still drinking, Mr. Ross thought the ignition interlock might be a more negative experience.

Ever since January 2012, ignition interlock drivers have to have a record of clean blows for the last four months of the restriction in order to get the device removed and be eligible for their regular driver’s license. “This ensures that drivers demonstrate the ability to separate their drinking from their driving,” explains Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director Darrin Grondel.

As the Washington Traffic Safety Commission announces the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” holiday campaign, Director Grondel urges drivers to plan ahead. “Don’t let a DUI ruin your holidays. Before you leave home for a holiday party, think about how everyone can get home safely. Designate a sober driver, take a taxi, stay the night.”

As part of the campaign, extra officers will be canvassing roadways between November 21 and January 1, 2013 throughout Walla Walla, Asotin and Garfield Counties searching for impaired drivers.

The Asotin, Clarkston, College Place, and Walla Walla Police Departments, the Walla Walla and Garfield County Sheriff’s Offices and the Washington State Patrol will participate in Washington State’s first-ever Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.

The Walla Walla County Traffic Safety Task Force organizes and supports this enforcement effort.

Washington State Has Highest Seat Belt Use Rate in the Nation

97.5 Percent Rate is Tops
This is a joint release from the Washington State Patrol and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

There is yet another sign that Washington drivers are doing the right thing. A newly-released federal report shows that Washington State had the highest seat belt use rate in the nation in 2011 at 97.5 percent. This marks the seventh consecutive year Washington’s seat belt use rate has been above 95 percent.

Darrin Grondel, Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, was very pleased with the federal release of state numbers. “News like this makes me proud to be living in Washington. Safe roadways are a team effort that includes everybody using their seat belts because they know that seat belts save lives.”

Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center estimates that seat belts reduce the risk of being killed or seriously injured in a crash by about 50 percent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report and table comparing seat belt use rates for all states and territories. The national average in 2011 was 84 percent.

Experts believe that traffic deaths are reduced by good public policy, well-built and maintained roads, and successful education and enforcement efforts.

“Our troopers have placed a very high priority on seat belt violations,” said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “They see first-hand the results of not wearing seat belts and are extremely motivated to reduce these unnecessary injuries and deaths.”

“I also want to thank the many city, county, and tribal police agencies who’ve joined us in this effort. It’s only by working together that we can achieve such a positive change of behavior,” Batiste added.

The way states take the observation seat belt survey is changing so the method will be uniform across the country. This may cause seat belt use rates to change next year.

More information about seat belts can be found in Target Zero, Washington’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan.

Drivers Making Good Choices, Crashing Less

This is a joint release from the Washington State Patrol, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

(Olympia)—If you drive a vehicle in Washington, pat yourself on the back.

Washington drivers are crashing their vehicles in lower numbers than at any time in the past decade. Fewer than 99,000 collisions occurred in 2011, down from 2001 and down significantly from the most recent peak in 2005.

In 2005 more than 123,000 collisions killed and injured thousands, and snarled traffic for everyone. The turnaround is good news for drivers, and applauded by agencies highway safety officials.

“Drivers get the lion’s share of credit for this improvement,” said Darrin Grondel, Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “Seat belts and air bags can reduce fatalities, but a reduction in collisions means there has been a marked improvement in driver behavior.”

“Our state continues to be a leader in traffic safety because so many Washingtonians have joined the Target Zero Team with a goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries,” Grondel said.

Along with drivers, officials credit the coordinated efforts of state and local agencies brought together through our state’s Target Zero program, a collective effort of traffic safety experts focused on finding out what causes collisions and how to prevent them.

“Highway safety continues to be at the core of our efforts,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, noting how highway safety features such as rumble strips and cable guardrail continue to prevent collisions, reduce injuries, and save lives.

“We are encouraged by the numbers but believe we can do even better. It’s going to take a continued commitment from all us – highway planners, drivers, plus our partners in law enforcement and driver education,” she said.

The 2011 numbers are considered preliminary until Dec. 31, but officials don’t expect them to change significantly. All categories of collisions are down, across the board.

  • Injury collisions were down by about 20 percent, from the peak year of 2005.
  • DUI-related collisions are down about 21 percent.
  • Fatal collisions are down by about 30 percent from the peak year of 2005.

“This supports what we’ve long believed,” said State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “There are no accidents in traffic. Each of us has the power to reduce collisions simply by making better choices.”

Batiste believes the three most important choices are slowing down, paying attention to the road and driving sober.

“We don’t have to accept collisions as an inevitable fact of life,” Batiste said.

So go ahead, drivers- pat yourselves on the back. Just don’t do it while you’re driving.

Year Total Collisions Fatal Collisions Fatalities Injury Collisions Alcohol Impaired
2001 113,908 575 649 43,782 6,389
2002 113,696 586 658 42,542 6,621
2003 113,313 540 600 40,715 6,379
2004 114,268 511 567 40,319 6,876
2005 123,158 582 649 43,421 7,392
2006 122,172 578 633 41,962 7,482
2007 118,829 430 571 39,706 7,325
2008 110,494 481 521 36,147 6,815
2009 103,008 455 492 34,620 6,481
2010 101,887 423 460 33,673 6,021
2011* 98,881 425 454 32,725 5,951

*2011 numbers are preliminary until Dec. 31, 2012

Results of the Drive Hammered, Get Nailed Campaign In Whatcom County Announced Today

What are the telltale signs? This is one sample of news releases customized by county throughout the state.

August is a deadly month on Washington’s roadways. From 2006 – 2010, on average, more impaired driving deaths occurred in August than any other month.* That’s why between August 17 and September 3 extra officers will be looking for DUI drivers during the annual Drive Hammered, Get Nailed campaign.

It’s up to all of us to keep our roads safe. So, what are signs of an impaired driver? Drunk drivers can exhibit a variety of behaviors depending upon impairment level. For example, those who know they are impaired:

Travel slower than the posted speed limit
Appear to be drunk (face close to the windshield)
Slow responses to traffic signals, sudden stops, tapping of brake lights
Travel side to side within and outside of their lane
Those who don’t think they are impaired generally drive a little more aggressively and:

Speed
Follow too closely
Change lanes abruptly (weaving in and out of traffic)
Travel side to side within and outside of their lane
The combination of one or more of these behaviors may alert you that you are near a drunk driver, so what do you do?

DIAL 911. Though dialing 911 is encouraged only for emergency situations, what could be more important than potentially saving lives?

Last year in Kittitas County, during the same time period, officers on routine and extra patrols arrested 34 people for DUI. For all of 2011, in Kittitas County, 555 people were charged with DUI.**

The Central Washington University, Ellensburg, and Cle Elum/Roslyn Police Departments, the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Washington State Patrol will participate in this Drive Hammered, Get Nailed campaign.

The Kittitas County Traffic Safety Task Force organizes and supports this enforcement effort.

* According to Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

** According to the Administrative Office of the Courts: http://www.courts.wa.gov/caseload/?fa=caseload.showReport&level=d&freq=a&tab=CourtLevel&fileID=rpt07