People who call 911 to report a driver they think might be impaired don’t always find out what happened. Was there an arrest made? Was there an accident?
On Monday, KIRO Radio host Dori Monson spotted a black Dodge Ram swerving on I-5. Seeing as it was 3:15 in the afternoon, Monson didn’t assume the driver was impaired.
“I see him go on the shoulder. I think maybe he was reaching for something, maybe he was on his phone, maybe he was distracted, but then I see him almost take out a car on the lane to his outside. Then I see him go way onto the shoulder again. So then I grabbed my phone on my Bluetooth, hands free, very safe, and I called 911.” Listen to the call.
“Only about 3 percent of the time are we able to get a ground trooper behind a DUI that somebody has reported.” – Bob Calkins, spokesperson for Washington State Patrol
Calkins says they’ve received over 4,000 calls reporting suspected drunk drivers in January and February.
Dori provided the dispatcher with his location on northbound I-5 near Northgate and a description of the truck, and then the call ended. But the Washington State Patrol called him back a few minutes later to see if he still had the truck in sight.
He was still following the truck and was able to give them more location details. While on the second call, Dori saw an apparent collision between the truck and another car.
“I think he just hit a car,” said Monson in the 911 call. “He and another vehicle are pulling off onto the shoulder on the inside. I think he just hit that car, right before Ballinger.” Listen to the call.
As this happened, Dori was exiting so he didn’t know what happened next. But he called the Washington State Patrol Tuesday morning to see if they’d been able to locate the driver.
He was told his call did result in a DUI arrest. Bob Calkins, with the Washington State Patrol, says it took about 20 minutes from the time of Dori’s first call to get the driver into custody.
“The trooper was, fortunately, in the area, which doesn’t always happen, and got to exactly the location you described where they had pulled over,” says Calkins. “Right at about 20 minutes from the time of your first call, the trooper radioed in that he had one subject in custody for DUI.”
When a 911 call reporting a suspected impaired driver is placed, Calkins says the dispatcher will radio out to troopers to see who might be in the area.
“Troopers are expected to come back and radio back their position to indicate to the communications officer or dispatcher whether they’re really in a position to catch up with this person and do an interdiction and unfortunately, geography is not our friend, even though drivers are.”
“Only about 3 percent of the time are we able to get a ground trooper behind a DUI that somebody has reported for us,” says Calkins.
“But about half the time, when we do, the person turns out, in fact, to be drunk or impaired,” he says. “People like you are very good at picking out impaired drivers.”
For those who do spot a driver they believe to be impaired, Calkins says there are a few things you can do to help a dispatcher. A license plate description is helpful. He says you should also be prepared with your location.
“What you can really do to help us first and foremost is know where you are. It’s amazing how you drive the same road every day and then you have to figure out where did I see that disabled vehicle that I wanted to call in,” says Calkins. “So know where you are. And then this is kind of the hardest part: expect a series of rapid-fire questions from our dispatchers.”
While he assures us dispatchers are very friendly, they are all business on the phone so they can get all the information they need from callers.
For those drivers willing to follow a suspected impaired driver to keep providing information to WSP, Calkins says be careful, because no one wants the situation to escalate and if the driver observes you following them, they might actually be able to make a case that they were driving erratically to get away from you.
In the first two months of this year, Calkins says they’ve received over 4,000 calls reporting suspected drunk drivers.
“We appreciate you [Dori] and everyone who calls and tries to help us get these folks off the road,” Calkins says.