Announcement from the Washington Highway Safety Commission.
Initial data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) for 2022 shows the highest number of fatalities on Washington’s highways and highways since 1990. Preliminary reports show that 745 people were killed in crashes last year.
Drug and alcohol impairment is involved in more than half of fatal crashes. According to a December 2022 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Alcohol-related crashes resulted in 14,219 fatalities, 497,000 non-fatal injuries, and $68.9 billion in economic costs in 2019…”.
“During 2017 through 2021, 32 percent of fatal crashes in Washington involved alcohol-positive drivers,” said WTSC Director Shelly Baldwin. “Alcohol impairment, either alone or in combination with other drugs, remains a leading risk factor in traffic fatalities.”
Health and safety experts have long advocated for states to lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels. per se DUI limit of 0.08 to 0.05 percent. The state of Utah and more than 100 other countries have set BAC limits at 0.05 percent or less. The Washington Legislature is currently considering Senate Bill 5002, which would change the state limit to 0.05.
“The goal of this bill is not to increase the number of DUI arrests but to remind and encourage people to avoid driving after drinking to save lives. This was the result in Utah, and we expect a similar impact in Washington state,” said Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste.
With a BAC of 0.05 percent, a driver has reduced coordination and ability to track moving objects, difficulty driving, and delayed response to emergency driving situations. “The evidence is clear that a driver’s ability to drive safely and react to unexpected traffic conditions is impaired when their BAC reaches 0.05 percent,” Baldwin said.
WTSC reminds all of us in Washington that there are simple things we can do to avoid drink driving, like planning ahead for a sober ride home if you’re going to be drinking. Friends and loved ones can help prevent DUIs by being a sober designated driver, calling a rideshare, or offering a place to sleep.
WTSC analysis shows that disabled drivers are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seat belts. These factors increase the risk of accidents and are more likely to cause death.