According to the Washington State Patrol, 211 arrests and bookings for impaired driving happened over the July 4th weekend. This number represents a decrease from the 234 reported arrests and bookings of impaired drivers in 2015; however, it may be adjusted if new data comes in.
The July 4th weekend has historically seen spikes in drivers operating their vehicles under the influence. In 2014, 164 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver over the July 4th weekend in America. The problem: a traditionally boozy long weekend, combined with events like parties and firework viewings far from drivers’ homes, mean that more people are on the road and more drivers are operating under the influence.
The eventual goal: Target Zero, Washington state’s long-term plan to reduce deaths on highways to zero by the year 2030. That’s an ambitious undertaking, and reducing impaired driving is a Priority Level One target for troopers. The Washington State Patrol is using high-tech solutions to work towards this goal, including using GIS mapping software that directs troopers to high-collision areas, selecting motivated and experienced troopers for daily DUI patrols, and working with Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutors to make reports and investigations better so they can hold up in court.
What could be the reason for this year’s decrease in arrests?
Increased awareness of the consequences of driving under the influence may be part of the decline. Police officers and traffic safety educators across the country have been working to increase the public’s understanding of how dangerous drunk driving can be.
Ride-share services like Uber and Lyft are becoming increasingly popular; these services are easy to order quickly at a fraction of the cost of a conventional cab. While Uber does institute surge pricing at high-volume times, it also advertises aggressively in areas where people may be travelling to and from nightlife or events.
Improvements to Seattle’s Link light rail system may also have helped by putting more intoxicated people on public transit rather than behind the wheel. Two new stops added this year allow riders to get to the University District and Capitol Hill quickly; both are popular party spots on holiday weekends.
While this year’s drop in DUIs is a good start, the Washington State Patrol will have a long way to go to reach Target Zero by 2030.