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DUI patrols increase ahead of Labor Day

Washington state arrests for driving under the influence

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs collect crime statistics from agencies that serve about 92% of the state. The most recent numbers available are from 2017.
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The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs collect crime statistics from agencies that serve about 92% of the state. The most recent numbers available are from 2017.

Nearly 150 additional DUI patrols are being deployed across Washington through Labor Day weekend, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

The commission offers extra funding to get law enforcement out on overtime for this time period, said Mark Medalen, impaired driving program manager with WTSC. In Thurston County, the participating agencies are the Olympia, Tenino, and Yelm police departments, Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, and Washington State Patrol.

The patrols are part of WTSC’s Target Zero Plan ⁠— a plan to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries across the state to zero by 2030.

Their timing coincides with what Medalen called “the deadliest quarter of the year.” July through September is the three-month period, Medalen said, that sees more crashes, more DUIs, and more crashes that result in fatalities than any other.

It’s a time of year when people are taking vacations before the kids go back to school and going to parties with family and friends that often involve alcohol and drugs.

WTSC graph.png
Courtesy Washington Traffic Safety Commission

Medalen said the extra patrols will be “High Visibility Enforcement” patrols, using a strategy from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That strategy includes placing officers in high-visibility areas and getting the word out in advance, so would-be drivers-under-the-influence will change their behavior and make a plan to avoid driving ahead of time.

“The idea is not to write tickets and arrest drivers,” Medalen said. “We want people to make the plan.”

The WTSC advises people to choose a designated driver, take a taxi or rideshare, use public transportation, leave your car at home, spend the night where you’re drinking, or use the SaferRide app.

Of particular concern to WTSC are people who use a combination of drugs or drugs and alcohol before driving.

Data from WTSC shows that the number of drivers in fatal crashes who tested positive for two or more drugs or any alcohol and drugs has oscillated over the years, but has trended steadily upward recently. From 2011 to 2015, the number of doubled from 78 to 149.

WTSC graph poly-drug.png
Courtesy Washington Traffic Safety Commission

“Most people do the right thing,” Medalen said. “Most people are making that plan. We appreciate that. We all have a responsibility to work together to keep ourselves, and our friends and family, from driving under the influence. These crashes are tragic, but they’re preventable.”

Sara Gentzler joined The Olympian in June 2019. She primarily covers Thurston County government and its courts, as well as breaking news. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Creighton University.
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