Washington State Patrol braces for high DUI arrests numbers St. Patrick's Day weekend
PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. - A bill to lower the legal blood alcohol level in Washington died in the 2023 legislative session, but that doesn’t mean people should rely on luck to get home if they’re planning to drink and drive on St. Patrick’s Day.
Law enforcement agencies across the state are conducting emphasis patrols to track down drunk drivers.
Of all the deadly crashes on the roads in 2022, Washington Traffic Safety Commission said more than half of them involved impairment from drugs and alcohol.
"Drunk driving collisions are totally preventable," said Sen. John Lovick, representing the 44th Legislative District.
Lovick sponsored Senate Bill 5002 to lower the blood alcohol concentration level from .08 to .05.
In 2018, Utah was the first state in the U.S. to implement the law. If the proposal was approved, Washington would have been the second state. Though the bill did not pass legislation, Lovick said people don’t need a change in law to make responsible decisions.
"It is totally unacceptable to drink and drive. Drunk driving is a choice. You can make the choice, there are so many other opportunities to get home," said Lovick.
With St. Patrick’s Day being the third most popular holiday to drink, Lovick reminded people about the dangers of drunk driving.
"Remember, when you’re on a two lane road way, in many cases, death is only eight inches away. That person could cross that centerline by eight inches and there’s a head-on collision. Would you want that person driving with you in your community?" said Lovick.
Troopers with Washington State Patrol said they anticipate arresting drunk drivers on St. Patrick’s Day, especially since it’s on a Friday this year.
Trooper Robert Reyer, the public information officer for WSP representing Pierce and Thurston counties, said when this holiday is on a weekend, WSP’s DUI arrest numbers are significantly higher.
- 2017 on Friday – 81 arrests
- 2018 on Saturday – 93 arrests
- 2019 on Sunday – 65 arrests
- 2020 on Tuesday – 13 arrest
- 2021 on Wednesday – 29 arrests
- 2022 on Thursday – 24 arrests
"Much higher than those numbers from 2020 to 2022 where St. Patrick’s Day will on a Tuesday through Thursday," said Reyer.
Troopers and law enforcement agencies across the state will have extra officers on the roads, using emphasis patrols and mobile impairment driving units to catch drunk drivers.
"If they make those bad decisions, we can stop them before something bad happens," said Reyer.
For Reyer, it’s not just this holiday that compels him to protect and serve. He said it’s much more personal.
"I worked in the medical field before and I saw many people who were killed or severely hurt by other people who made those bad decisions. And so for me and for my coworkers, it is of upmost importance to be out there and prevent people from getting injured today or even worse get killed because of somebody’s bad decision," said Reyer.
WSP said there would be a DUI checkpoint in Pierce County Friday night. Those arrested for DUI could face jail time and a fine up to $10,000.