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.