Did you know most traffic crashes are completely preventable? In the five-year period from 2013-2017, there were 2,551 people who died on Washington’s roads in traffic crashes. Nearly half of these fatal crashes (1,259 of 2,551) involved a driver impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. Washington has seen an increase in poly drugs – a combination of multiple drugs or drugs and alcohol in drivers. While alcohol can be detected through breath tests, blood draws and analysis is the best way to show courts the complete picture of a driver’s intoxication level.
A Law Enforcement Phlebotomy Program is a national model that promotes public safety with a safe, secure means to collect blood for evidentiary purposes in impaired driving cases, with blood collection done pursuant to search warrant or consent. The goal is to reduce the number of drivers who refuse breath tests and increase the number of impaired driving convictions using blood evidence.
A phlebotomist is specifically trained and currently qualified to perform venipunctures. Safety during the course of a blood draw is paramount; it is the duty of each phlebotomist to follow department policy and procedures. This law enforcement phlebotomy project directly supports our state’s Target Zero efforts. Law enforcement phlebotomists allow officers to process more impaired drivers in less time. This time savings will allow officers to get out of the hospital waiting rooms and back on the roads to stop and process more DUIs. Ultimately this will make our roads safer.
Lakewood Police Department led the Law Enforcement Phlebotomy pilot project in Washington and has assisted other agencies in expanding the program. Currently, WTSC provides grant funding to support these projects with several agencies and officers in Pierce and Clark Counties. WTSC is in discussions to support this program in other areas around the state. Refusal rates have dropped in large part due to increased public awareness – the public is aware that if a suspect refuses to have their blood drawn when under arrest for DUI they will lose their drivers license for a period of one year, a zero tolerance approach by law enforcement, search warrants – judges are available 24 hours a day to process warrants in both misdemeanor and felony cases and whether or not the incident is an injury collision and better interagency cooperation.
More information can be found in NHTSA’s Law Enforcement Phlebotomy Toolkit.