Officials say DUI drivers now being busted for more than just booze

OLYMPIA, Wash. – State police say the three people killed in an early, Thursday morning DUI crash on I-5 near Lakewood were all from Cowlitz County in Southwest Washington.

The identities of the three victims have yet to be released by the Washington State Patrol as next of kin notifications had not taken place by Thursday afternoon.

“We lost three lives here tonight that shouldn’t have been lost,” said WSP Trooper Travis Joyce.

The causing driver, according to investigators, is a 23-year-old man from Tacoma who is now facing drug and firearms charges and is accused of vehicular homicide.

It’s yet another avoidable tragedy that officials at the Washington Traffic Safety Commission says happens all too often in our state.

More than 550 people in our state died in crashes across the state due to impaired drivers last year, say officials.

What’s more troubling is that drivers are increasingly not only driving drunk, but both drunk and high on a variety of intoxicants.

It started with a call to 911 Thursday morning around 2:30 a.m. when someone spotted an erratic driver on I-5 in Pierce County.

State troopers said a 1999 Honda CRV was clipped by the suspected causing driver. The Honda hit the barricade and flipped and the crash killed all three people.

“It was a completely preventable crash, it should not have happened,” said WTSC program manager Mark Medalen. “The driver that caused this should never have been behind the wheel.”

WSTC says impaired driving crashes and fatalities are still rising across Washington. Last year, records show drunk drivers caused crashes into the triple digits in Snohomish County - King and Pierce counties saw hundreds more.

In fact, all car crashes involving alcohol across the state haven’t been this high since 2008.

Police say they have seen a new, troubling trend over the past 5 years –impaired drivers are now more than just drunk behind the wheel.

“Some alcohol, some marijuana or other drug,” said Medalen. “So we’re seeing a combination of stuff. And we’re seeing a little bit goes a long way.”

Officials say the cross fade of drugs makes it even harder for impaired drivers to concentrate, leading to even more dangerous conditions.

Tragedies like Thursday morning’s crash on I-5 is a reminder to all of us to not drive while drunk or under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Medalen. “It rips families apart and it’s absolutely preventable.”

So what are you supposed to do to protect yourself if you’re one of the good drivers out on the road?

The safety commission says people should never drive distracted, always wear a seatbelt – and if you can – avoid driving between midnight and 6 a.m., which is statistically the most dangerous time for DUI crashes.

Troopers have yet to determine what substances the suspected causing driver of Thursday’s crash may have been using.