The Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s (WTSC) initial data for 2022 shows the greatest number of deaths on Washington roads and highways since 1990. Preliminary reports show that 745 people were killed in crashes last year.
Impairment by drugs and alcohol is involved in more than half of fatal crashes. According to a December 2022 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Alcohol-involved crashes resulted in 14,219 fatalities, 497,000 nonfatal injuries, and $68.9 billion in economic costs in 2019….”
“During 2017 through 2021, 32% of fatal crashes in Washington involved alcohol-positive drivers,” said WTSC Director Shelly Baldwin. “Alcohol impairment, whether alone or in combination with other drugs, continues to be a leading risk factor in traffic fatalities.”
Health and safety experts have long advocated for states to reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for DUI from 0.08 to 0.05%. The state of Utah and more than 100 countries have set BAC limits at 0.05% or less. The Washington Legislature is currently considering Senate Bill 5002, which would change the state’s 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 and thereby save lives. This was the outcome in Utah, and we expect a similar impact in Washington State,” said Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste.
At a BAC of 0.05%, a driver has reduced coordination and ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering 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 affected when their BAC reaches 0.05%,” Baldwin said.
The WTSC reminds all people in Washington that there are simple things we can do to prevent impaired driving like planning ahead for a sober ride home if you will be out drinking. Friends and loved ones can help to prevent DUIs by being a sober designated driver, calling a rideshare, or offering a place to sleep.
WTSC analysis shows impaired drivers are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seat belts. These factors increase crash risk and are more likely to result in death.