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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Impaired driving

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Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol is against the law and a leading contributor to fatal crashes in King County and Washington state overall.

From 2008 to 2012, 200 people died in impaired driver-involved crashes in King County, accounting for 47% of all traffic fatalities for that period, and an additional 576 people were seriously injured. Statewide, 1,161 people died in impaired driver-involved crashes (about 232 people per year) and 2,541 people were seriously injured.
...Washington Traffic Safety Commission, July 2013

Keeping alcohol and drug impaired drivers off the road is a priority. In Washington state, impaired driving is defined as:

  • driving while under the influence of drugs,
  • driving while impaired by alcohol, or
  • driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or above.
Under the influence? Under arrest!

Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol is against the law and Washington state’s impaired driving laws are heavily enforced. In 2012, there were 8,090 DUI/physical control misdemeanors filings and 8,578 charges in King County.
...Washington state Courts, Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Annual Caseload Report for 2012

Law enforcement agencies throughout King County have traffic units or traffic officers who conduct regular traffic safety and DUI patrols. In addition, most King County police departments work together to hold multi-agency DUI emphasis patrols throughout the year.

The Violence & Injury Prevention Unit helps to coordinate many of these patrols in North & East King County and partners with staff at the Kent Police Department who coordinate extra patrols in South King County. You may see Target Zero Teams patrol cars on the roads in your area. These officers and troopers receive funding from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to conduct extra patrols in areas with the highest fatal and serious injury crash burden in our county.

What can you do to prevent impaired driving crashes?

Leave your car at home and plan for a safe ride home before you go out. Use a taxi, bus, or light rail to get around or ride with a sober friend.

If you host a party, have a plan to get your guests home safely or let them spend the night. Stop guests who have been drinking from driving home. Offer alcohol-free drinks and food. The Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Orange County Chapter has recipes for alcohol-free cocktails and other party trips.

If you are driving and think you see an impaired driver, the Washington state Patrol suggests the following:

  • Call 9-1-1. The law allows use of a cell phone to report an emergency, and reporting an impaired driver is an emergency.
  • Provide the 9-1-1 operator with the location and direction of travel, a description of the erratic driving, the color of the vehicle, and if possible a vehicle license plate number.

How do you spot an impaired driver?

  • Watch for vehicles weaving as they drive down the road.
  • Vehicles crossing onto the shoulder or into the next lane and driving there for a while then jerking back into their original lane.
  • Speeding up, slowing down, making abrupt lane changes without using turn signals are all signs of impairment.
King County DWI Victims Impact Panel

Visit the DWI Victims Impact Panel of King County website.

The Panels were co-founded in 1984 by Judge David Admire or Northeast District Court in Redmond, WA and Larry and Shirley Anderson of Bothell, the parents of a young man killed by a drunk driver.

Victim panelists tell the story of how an impaired driver changed their life. At the conclusion of the presentation, panelists respond to questions from the audience. Finally, each offender is asked to provide anonymous written comments on what he or she has seen and heard.

To locate other Victim Impact Panels in King County and throughout the state, visit the Washington Traffic Safety Commission's Registry webpage.