Target Zero: Police stepping up patrols to stop drunk drivers over St. Patrick's Day weekend

Police will be conducting extra emphasis patrols to crack down on drunk and impaired driving over St. Patrick's Day weekend.

Deadly traffic crashes in Washington have soared to a level officials haven't seen since 1990.

In 2021, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission reported 602 crashes resulting in 670 deaths. And preliminary reports show 745 people were killed on the roads in 2022.

The Washington State Department of Transportation has also been tracking alcohol-related crashes:

  • In King County, there have been 1,064 crashes involving alcohol this year, 19 of which were deadly. In 2020, there were 15 reported deadly crashes involving alcohol.
  • In Pierce County, there were 449 crashes involving alcohol, with six people dying.
  • In Snohomish County, 14 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, compared to 11 in 2020.


Report: 2022 saw most traffic deaths in Washington since 1990

A report from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission found 2022 saw the most traffic deaths in the state since 1990, and more than half of them involved impaired driving.

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, 78% of us in Washington don't drive after drinking and more than 80% take action to prevent others from driving impaired.

But preventing drunk driving takes all of us working together. Make plans for how to get home ahead of time by:

  • Arranging a ride from a friend or a rideshare service
  • Use public transportation
  • Leave cars at home
  • Plan to spend the night at a friend's place
  • Engaging others to help stop drunk driving, including calling 911

Those arrested for DUI face fines of at least $10,000 along with costs for attorney’s fees, fines, court costs, lost time at work, higher insurance rates, car towing and repairs, and more.

State Senator John Lovick, representing Washington’s 44th District, proposed a bill during the 2023 legislative session to reduce the legal blood alcohol concentration level, commonly known as BAC. He said he hopes the potential law change could curb the surge and save lives.

"If you know someone that has been drinking, and they are at a .06, .07, .08 [percent], would you want them driving down your roads with your family walking in the streets or your kids playing the road? The answer is always no!" said Lovick.

His idea was to lower the limit of the state’s current level from .08 to .05. That bill went to committee during the session but is listed under Senate Rule X, which means the bill will go no further at this time.

The bill also picked up a key endorsement from Governor Jay Inslee who announced his support that same day.

"This is a public safety issue. This is a crime issue. And I’m convinced if we do this it will reduce the number of people who are impacted and committing this crime in the state of Washington," said Inslee. "It’s just not acceptable. So, we’ve got to value life in our state."


Gov. Inslee endorses bill to lower blood alcohol level in Washington

The number of deadly traffic crashes in Washington soared to a level not seen since 1990, and local leaders are hoping a new bill to lower the BAC limit will remedy the problem.

Inslee said he has supported and advocated for the idea since his time as a prosecutor.

"I think it will send a message to people to moderate their drinking and driving behavior," said Inslee.

The state leaders said the .05% BAC level appeared to be working in Utah. It was the first state to initiate the rule in 2018. Lovick said he studied the statistics after the rule change there and found, "They reduced the fatality rates, DUI fatality rates, by 20 percent."

As a former state trooper, Lovick said he knows the potential dangers and devastation if Washington doesn’t become the second state in the nation to change the law.

"I was a state trooper for 31 years and I have to admit I still have nightmares and I still just have terrible thoughts over the things that I saw going to terrible collisions; having to go to report to families that there loved ones were killed. And I still have nightmares over that," said Lovick.