Impaired Driving Overview
With the holidays right around the corner, you know emphasis patrols for DUI can’t be too far behind! Patrols in most parts of the state begin December 15 through New Year’s weekend.
As we prepare for the annual patrols, extra traffic from holiday events, travel and celebrations, we want to remind everyone to drive sober, and most importantly, step in to prevent someone else from driving drunk or high.
Last month we asked people to share stories of how they intervened. We’ve created social media graphics that highlight some of these comments, helping to emphasize that stepping in is something anyone can do.
We’re also emphasizing that calling 911 is an acceptable intervention to prevent a DUI crash. The need for this was illustrated by a comment we received on social media: “If I’m on the road and see someone weaving around like mad, I just keep my distance. There isn’t anything I can do…” We are trying to address that in our social media materials, and our news release, all of which you can download here.
With deaths from DUI increasing last year with fewer people traveling, we hope you will find these materials useful and share them on your social media throughout the holiday season.
- 2020 was one of the deadliest years in Washington from DUI-related crashes, despite fewer drivers on the road.
- Preliminary data for 2021 also indicates an increase in deaths this year from driver impairment.
- As Washington prepares to celebrate the holiday season, let’s all do our part for sober driving. Be sober behind the wheel and prevent someone you care about from getting a DUI.
- We can reverse the alarming trend in deaths and injuries from DUIs if we all work together.
- Most people in Washington – 78% – never drink before driving. That’s a choice that’s easy to live with.
- We can help protect our friends and families too, by preventing someone from driving while impaired. Most Washingtonians – 81% – say they will step in to prevent someone from driving drunk or high.
- You’d reach out to stop a friend from falling or getting hurt from an unseen danger. We do the same when we stop people we love from driving drunk or high.
Effective Ways to Stop Someone from Driving Drunk or High
- If you encounter a situation where someone might drive impaired, you can:
- Arrange for or provide a ride
- Arrange for the person to stay where they are
- Offer your couch for the night
- Engage someone else to help, including calling 911
- Calling 911 to prevent a crash is better than calling to report one. Taking action to prevent a DUI-related crash is an emergency.
- When talking to 911 dispatchers, they will want to know the following (without putting yourself in danger):
- the make and model of the car
- license plate number
- route and direction being traveled
- a description of the driver
Fewer Drivers but More DUIs, Crashes and Deaths
- 2020 had the highest number of polydrug drivers in fatal crashes, ever (and highest number of impaired drivers by either alcohol or drugs).
- August 2021 was the deadliest month on Washington’s roads (77 deaths) since 1997 (91 deaths).
- Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in 2020 was down 15% compared with 2019, and at times as low as 60% less.
- At the same time, fatalities in DUI- involved crashes increased 12.4% and serious injuries increased 32.4% over 2019.
- Traffic fatalities and serious injuries continue to increase at alarming rates in 2021 as more Washingtonians return to the roads.
Sample Social Media Messages & Graphics
The following are sample graphics and related content that we encourage you to use on your organization’s social media. Feel free to adapt for use on your website or customized emails too. Please click on the link below each image to download for posting on Facebook and Twitter.
Using short videos is a popular way to reinforce messages important to instilling safe driving practices and behavior for our teen drivers. Feel free to embed in your social media posts, email messages, or on your website.
Rise in Deaths from DUIs Calls for Stronger Interventions, Including Calling 911
Law Enforcement Adding Patrols Beginning December 15
Olympia – 2020 was one of the deadliest years in Washington from driving under the influence (DUI)-related crashes, despite fewer drivers on the road, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC). Preliminary data for 2021 also indicates an increase in deaths this year from DUIs. As Washington prepares to celebrate the holiday season, WTSC is calling on drivers to be sober and for everyone to intervene to prevent someone from driving impaired.
“Everyone can be a hero when it comes to saving a life from someone driving drunk or high,” said Mark Medalen, program manager at WTSC. “That means making a plan that doesn’t put you behind the wheel if you are drinking or using cannabis. Most people in Washington will also step in to protect lives by preventing someone else from driving impaired.”
Medalen said acceptable and effective interventions for impaired driving include calling 911 if you see someone on the road you suspect may be impaired.
“Seeing someone you think is driving drunk or high – and at risk for hurting themselves or others – is the definition of emergency,” said Medalen. “If you encounter someone on the road who might be impaired, call 911 so law enforcement can step in and possibly prevent a crash. Your call could save someone’s life.”
Amber Muniz, a communications supervisor in the Wenatchee 911 center, relates a recent example of 911 calls getting an impaired driver off the road. “In late August, we took three separate calls about a possible DUI,” said Muniz. “The driver nearly caused multiple collisions and ended up being booked for DUI by one of our troopers, and thankfully never killed anyone. It is always satisfying when callers are able to assist our troopers in getting DUI drivers stopped. It really feels like a job well done.”
If you call 911 to report a possible impaired driver, the dispatcher will ask for the make and model of the car, license plate number, route and direction, and, if possible, a description of the driver. “The 911 dispatcher will ask for all the information you can provide,” said Medalen. “But never get too close or do anything that might put you in danger.”
WTSC statistics show that 2020 had the highest number of polydrug drivers in fatal crashes in state history. Polydrug drivers are those impaired by more than one substance, usually alcohol and cannabis. And despite fewer drivers being on the road during the pandemic shutdown, 2020 saw the highest number of DUI- involved in fatal crashes, overall, since 2006. Preliminary data for 2021 indicate the trend may be continuing, with August of this year the deadliest on Washington’s roads since 1997.
With these concerning trends as backdrop and with DUIs typically increasing during the holidays, law enforcement will be out in force beginning December 15 patrolling for impaired drivers. Statewide, more than 75 local law enforcement agencies are adding dedicated patrols.
“With holiday parties and travel, December can see an increase in impaired driving – but not if we insist on sober driving and taking steps to prevent it,” said Medalen. “Recent trends are concerning, but we have hope we can turn things around. We know that when it comes to stopping someone from driving impaired, most people in Washington will do the right thing.”