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State troopers notice spike in DUI stops with children in the car

(AP)

The Washington State Patrol has observed a spike in DUI stops — drunk drivers — with children in the car across the Olympic Peninsula.

“It first got brought up to me by a handful of our road troopers,” said Trooper Chelsea Hodgson with Washington State Patrol’s District 8. “They personally had arrested a couple of impaired drivers with children in their vehicles. They thought it seemed like there have been a lot lately. Then we looked into the numbers and we had 11 in July alone.”

“When you make that stop and not only do you have a DUI driver, but you look in the back seat and there’s a kid, that’s reckless endangerment, that’s a call to CPS,” she said. “That destroys not only the driver’s world and their life, but the kid’s as well.”

RELATED: Washington lawmakers consider tightening drunk driving laws

District 8 covers the most western part of the state. During a typical year, Troopers in District 8 pull over about 30 drivers who are suspected of a DUI, with passengers under the age of 16. So far in 2018, they have pulled over 28 throughout Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pacific, and Wahkiakum Counties.

“Which is high considering our average every year is 30 and we are only in August,” Hodgson said. “…. We only have two more until we get to that average, so it’s pretty hard to believe that we wouldn’t hit it, if not go beyond it by the end of the year.”

“If you have got a child in the car, they don’t have a choice to be there and they can’t get out on their own accord,” she said. “So you have that extra factor of endangerment there with the kid in the car.”

Of the 11 stops in July:

  • Four were in Kitsap County; two in Mason County; two in Pacific County; two in Grays Harbor; and one in Clallam County.
  • Children’s ages ranged from 2-15 years old.
  • Since 2007, the most stops for DUI with children in the car happened in 2015 with 37; there were 36 stops in 2013.

DUI numbers have recently been on the rise in overall Washington state. In 2016, 535 people were killed on the state’s roadways; that’s 99 more than in 2013, which saw the lowest number of fatalities since before 2005.

State troopers are asking for help getting these drivers off the road by having drivers keep an eye out for signs of DUIs. Call 911 if you notice anything on the road. What to look for: lane changes, shoulder driving, erratic braking or lane changes. An impaired driver may also stop short or overshoot a line. A major telltale sign is a car without headlights on after dark.

“We can’t stop people from making bad decisions, but we can have the public help to stop them before it gets worse,” Hodgson said.

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