DUI arrests decrease after state monopoly on liquor sales ends

Jul 16, 2013, 6:04 PM | Updated: Jul 17, 2013, 8:15 pm
One year after voters ended Washington’s 80-year monopoly on liquor sales, our state still ha...
One year after voters ended Washington's 80-year monopoly on liquor sales, our state still has the highest spirits tax in the country at $35.22 per gallon. (Linda Thomas photo)
(Linda Thomas photo)

Before Washington got out of the liquor business in June of 2012, emotional campaigns urged voters to reject the initiative allowing grocery stores and private businesses to sell hard alcohol.

“Alcohol kills more children than any other drug. I know first-hand because a drunk driver killed my son Trevor,” Linda Thompson said in commercial against Initiative 1183.

Other ads took what seemed like a more factual approach.

“Problem drinking could increase as much as 48 percent,” said Mark Nelson, the Cowlitz County Sheriff in another TV commercial.

A new analysis from the Washington Policy Center finds those public safety fears about ending the state’s nearly 80 year liquor monopoly didn’t materialize.

The think tank, for the record, supported getting the state out of the liquor business for many years.

Between June 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 there were 21,577 DUI arrests and 2,575 collisions related to alcohol, according to data from the Washington State Patrol.

There were 19,703 DUI arrests the following year – June of 2012 through June of 2013 – with liquor sales in grocery stores and other retail businesses. The state patrol reported 2,347 collisions in that time frame.

“You could come to the absurd conclusion that it actually improved public safety because we saw DUI collisions decrease and we saw DUI arrests decrease,” says Jason Mercier, the policy center’s director of government reform.

While he can’t make a case that a decrease in drunk driving arrests is linked to selling vodka and other hard liquor in grocery stores, the opposite didn’t happen either with private sales.

“It obviously did not result in the explosion of alcohol-related problems that the opponents warned us about,” says Mercier.

A bigger factor in the decrease in DUI arrests last year was that the WSP had about 60 fewer troopers on the roads, according to spokesman Bob Calkins.

The State Patrol makes about half the DUI arrests in Washington, with other police agencies picking up the rest.

Tax statistics show Washington still has the highest liquor taxes in the country.

“Washington is number one by a long shot,” Mercier says. “The tax comes down to about $35 per gallon.”

Oregon’s spirits excise tax per gallon is $22.73. Outside the Northwest, the highest is Virginia at $20.56 while the lowest is $2.00 per gallon in Missouri.

The Washington Policy Center believes “given how out of whack” our taxes are compared with the rest of the country, lawmakers should look at the tax and fee structure.

“The intent was to create a competitive private liquor market with a level playing field between restaurants, grocery stores and retailers,” Mercier says. “We don’t have that.”



No Author

Enter to win Ringo Starr Tickets!

KIRO Newsradio has your chance to win two tickets to see Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band. They’re coming this fall to Benaroya Hall in Seattle on Tuesday, October 11th, 2022! See Ringo Starr live with Steve Lukather, Colin Hay, Warren Ham, Gregg Bissonette, Hamish Stuart and Edgar Winter. The band is excited to play after […]
1 month ago
Kalles Junior High (Kalles Junior High PTSA Facebook)...
Dori Monson

Dori: ‘A huge step backward,’ says Puyallup mom of school meeting reserved for BIPOC community

"Alarming” and “surreal” are words a Puyallup mom uses to describe an event to discuss racism in Puyallup schools.
1 month ago
Worker Ruslan Trishchuk, 40, smokes a cigarette while taking a break outside the crematorium of Bai...
Associated Press

As Mariupol hangs on, the extent of the horror not yet known

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — As Mariupol’s defenders held out Monday against Russian demands that they surrender, the number of bodies in the rubble of the bombarded and encircled Ukrainian city remained shrouded in uncertainty, the full extent of the horror not yet known. With communications crippled, movement restricted and many residents in hiding, the fate […]
2 months ago
Sounder train...
MyNorthwest Staff

Sounder trains canceled between Seattle and Everett for landslide

Sound Transit has canceled Sounder N Line service between Seattle and Everett until Thursday due to a landslide that has covered the tracks.
4 months ago
Seattle garbage...
MyNorthwest Staff

Garbage, recycling pickup resumes for Seattle area

Garbage and recycling pickup resumes in Seattle after last week's snowstorm.
4 months ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Monday commuters to face icy roads across Puget Sound region

Freezing temperatures have settled in over Western Washington after a day of several inches of snow for most locations, creating an ice rink for commuters on Monday morning. 
5 months ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
DUI arrests decrease after state monopoly on liquor sales ends