Traffic patrols remind Washingtonians to drive sober this holiday season
OLYMPIA — Each year, the holidays bring friends, families, and loved ones together. However, this time of year is also a stark reminder in grieving loss and those who are missing from the celebrations. As of October 2022, 639 people in Washington state died in traffic crashes — whose chairs were left empty at holiday gatherings.
“Traffic fatalities reached a 20-year high in 2021, and preliminary data through October shows that there have been 15% more deaths so far in 2022, compared to the first 10 months of 2021,” said Mark McKechnie from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC). “Every year, more than half of traffic fatalities involve impaired drivers.”
Linda Thompson has dedicated her life’s work to preventing these tragic deaths after losing her 3-year-old son to a multiple repeat DUI offender in 1986. Thompson, who is the executive director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council, said, “In an instant, our little guy was taken because someone made the choice to drive impaired–totally unaware that the pain they caused will dwell in our hearts forever.”
Lori Markowitz also lost her son, Josh, in 2021 to an impaired hit-and-run driver who was driving at a high rate of speed on city streets. Lori said, “I’m not the same person I was before the night Josh was killed. But in the year-plus since, I have had an opportunity to learn some things. Until my family was affected, for example, I never knew traffic crashes were preventable. That we have the tools to reduce them.”
The WTSC announced that more than 120 law enforcement agencies across the state will be taking part in High Visibility Enforcement (HVE) patrols beginning December 14th and continuing through January 1, 2023. Officers will be focused on preventing further tragedy by removing impaired drivers from Washington roads.
In addition to the extra patrols, the WTSC reminds all people in Washington that there are simple things we can all do to prevent impaired driving like planning ahead for a sober ride home if you will be out drinking alcohol or using cannabis. Friends and loved ones can help to prevent DUIs by offering a sober ride, calling a rideshare, or offering a place to sleep.
The WTSC also encourages calling 911 to report someone who is driving impaired, or if you observe someone swerving in and out of their lane and driving erratically. This can include speeding, braking suddenly or inappropriately, or making wide turns.
“Impaired driving crashes are totally preventable. We can all do our part to keep impaired drivers off our roads so that no one has to miss their loved ones during the holiday season,” McKechnie said.