Motorists driving impaired will have a greater chance of being pulled over by law enforcement, as nearly 150 additional DUI patrols begin across the state. Patrols run from August 14 through Labor Day weekend, a time when fatalities from impairment tend to increase. To reduce fatalities, traffic safety officials offer a simple message for drivers who consume alcohol or other drugs: plan before you party.
“We conduct the ‘Plan before you party’ campaign during the busy summer travel time because we want everyone to get home safe,” says Mark Medalen, impaired driving program manager at the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC). “Planning ahead for a safe ride is especially important for the small number of Washington drivers who mix alcohol and cannabis.”
From 2012 to 2017, Washington experienced a 15 percent per year increase in the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who were impaired from more than one substance, known as poly-drug drivers. Alcohol and cannabis are the most frequent combination found in drivers involved in deadly crashes.
“The good news is that most Washington drivers are concerned about traffic safety, and agree that impairment begins as soon as you start consuming alcohol and cannabis” said Medalen. “We must focus on turning concern to action, by making a plan before you party, or helping others who are impaired get a ride, use rideshare or public transportation.”
To help deliver the message, WTSC is placing 75 ‘standees’ – free standing, tall posters – in cannabis retail shops around the state, in a first-time effort to place traffic safety messaging where people shop or buy cannabis.
From 2013 to 2017 nearly 75 percent of cannabis-positive drivers in fatal crashes were also positive for other drugs and/or alcohol. Poly-drug drivers are now the most common type of impaired driver involved in fatal crashes.
Responding to this trend, traffic safety officials are improving techniques used to test drivers for impairment from cannabis. During the upcoming statewide DUI patrol, officers trained and certified as Law Enforcement Phlebotomists over the past two years in Pierce County will be arresting suspected drug impaired drivers and conducting blood draws at four sites throughout the county.
Phlebotomy officers from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the Lakewood and Tacoma Police Departments will be available during the campaign to assist all participating agencies. These include:
- Bonney Lake Police Department
- Fife County Police Department
- Fircrest Police Department
- Gig Harbor Police Department
- Lakewood Police Department
- Milton Police Department
- Orting Police Department
- Pierce County Sheriff’s Office
- Puyallup Police Department
- Ruston Police Department
- Sumner Police Department
- Tacoma Police Department
- University Place Police Department
- Washington State Patrol
Said Medalen, “Our hope is to reduce traffic deaths to zero. Planning ahead is one action you can take to keep our roads and our families safe. There’s another way that everyone can help. If you see someone impaired, engage with them and help them find another way home. Road safety is up to all of us.”