Why you should keep an extra eye out for DUI drivers this New Year’s

Dec 31, 2018, 10:26 AM

“Don’t drink and drive” may seem like a pretty basic point — something anybody can get behind. Still, however, Washington has been plagued by drunk drivers in the year leading up to New Year’s Eve. Tonight is when people flock to celebrations across the state, and law enforcement will emphasize DUI patrols.

Let’s consider a few points from 2018. Just as the year was getting underway, it was already notable that the number of traffic-related fatalities was considerably high.

By summer, state troopers already noticed an unusually high spike in numbers of drunk drivers being pulled over with children in the car. Dramatic video caught a high-speed truck vs doughnut shop crash in Auburn. A collision on SR 18 near Tiger Mountain claimed the life of a mother and daughter who were on their way to work.

Most recently, state troopers spent the month of December (following Black Friday) taking hundreds of impaired drivers off Western Washington roads. More than 300 drunk drivers were pulled over in King County between Black Friday and Christmas.

Over last week, that number jumped to over 400. Meanwhile, Pierce and Thurston County officers made more than 100 DUI stops. Pierce County deputies are now trained to take blood at the scene of a pullover to get the most accurate blood-alcohol levels for suspected DUI cases.

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On New Year’s Eve, impaired drivers are particularly noticeable. Even where you may not expect it. Just take it from ferry passenger AJ Johnson, who told KIRO 7: “It’s bad. Women have come up and manhandled me, dudes come up and dump beer on me. Stuff like that.”

Washington State Ferry officials are therefore keeping an extra eye out this New Year holiday for impaired drivers who shouldn’t be driving off the boat.

“Almost every year, we have an incident on New Year’s Eve, or early New Year’s morning, of somebody visibly intoxicated, either causing trouble on board or driving under the influence of alcohol,” said Justin Fujioka with Washington State Ferries.

DUI: Options for transportation

Washington state troopers are continuing DUI emphasis patrols — that are already underway — over New Year’s Eve. It’s important for drivers to note that just because you’re OK to drive, it’s a good idea to watch out for others on the road who aren’t.

“Not only the things inside your vehicle — your passengers, your phone — all of those things can be distractions,” said Sergeant Julie Fisher with the Washington State Patrol. “And if you add marijuana or alcohol, you are slowing your reaction times, and increasing your odds of having a tragedy occur.”

King County Metro is offering free rides between 7 p.m. Monday (New Year’s Eve) to 4 a.m. Tuesday. Sound Transit is also running light rail lines until 2 a.m.

The taxi ride is a classic. And don’t forget the convenience of Uber and Lyft.

And remember, just because it isn’t a car, hopping on a bikeshare bike parked outside your bar isn’t much better than getting behind a wheel.

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Why you should keep an extra eye out for DUI drivers this New Year’s