More and more frequently, police departments around the country have designated time frames around popular holidays as a crackdown on impaired drivers. Deadly holiday accidents claim many lives each year. The primary reasons are twofold: (1) some people are less accustomed to drinking throughout the year, but more inclined to do so during the holidays; and (2) some people drink more than usual and misjudge their impairment. There are, of course, others who recklessly drink and drive all year without consideration for the holidays or anything else. In Washington state, impaired driving prevention is a priority throughout the year, regardless if it is a holiday or not, especially now, as Washington experiences an increase in DUI-related fatal crashes.
Ingredients for 2017 Washington DUI Fatal Crashes
Since Washington legalized marijuana's recreational use, police are finding more crashes caused by not one but a combination of two intoxicants, often alcohol and marijuana. What's more, the number of DUI fatal crashes involving these drivers has more than doubled during the period between 2011 and 2016. Law enforcement hopes to stave the number of deaths and encourage more Washingtonians to make it home safely by naming these crackdown campaigns.
According to police reports, in December, traffic safety in Clark County, WA increased dramatically since the announcement of the crackdown. Police Departments released an information campaign using promotional funding supported by the Target Zero Traffic Safety Task Force, funded by the Traffic Safety Commission. Warnings of the higher scrutiny clearly helped reduce the number of impaired drivers. Compared to the previous year, severe injuries sustained by impaired drivers in Clark County saw a drop of nearly 58 percent. DUI Deaths fell nearly 78 percent.
2018: A New Year of Washington DUI Caution
Now that the holiday season has passed, stopping or slowing deaths by impaired drivers remains a focus by the police. Random checkpoints are not authorized in Washington but regular traffic stops can happen at any time for a burned-out taillight, speeding, or for other hazards. Drivers pulled over to a traffic stop may end up being investigated and arrested for DUI, if the police officer suspects the same. If an officer believes you are impaired, he can ask that you submit to roadside sobriety tests or ask a variety of questions to determine what you were doing prior to getting behind the wheel, both are voluntary.
You do not have to submit to tests, nor are you required to tell the officer anything. The officer can summon a Drug Recognition Expert to the scene to evaluate you but this is NOT bound by any scientific evidence. If you are arrested, additional evidence may be presented to counter this with the idea that you were not intoxicated at all, but alarmed at the officer's accusations. Remain polite but do not provide information.
Efforts by the police to reduce deaths through crackdown campaigns are meant with the best intentions—saving lives. And, a drivers' lapse of judgment does not make them a terrible person. Mistakes happen. If you are facing DUI charges, there may be options to help you in fighting your case that you have not considered. As a former prosecutor, I have worked both sides of the courtroom. Call my office; it is likely you will feel better just having made that call.