2020 was one of the deadliest years in Washington for driving under the influence (DUI)-related crashes. That's according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission which is hoping to save lives this year through special emphasis patrols that start this week.

The DUI Patrols started early Wednesday and continue through the holidays

The patrols are underway in the Yakima Valley and throughout the state.  Statewide, more than 75 local law enforcement agencies are adding dedicated patrols. The patrols involve Deputies from the Yakima County Sheriff's Office, Troopers from the Washington State Patrol and Officers from the Yakima Police Department. The extra patrols are funded by the state.
But local and state authorities are hoping they'll get your help this holiday season. They say if you call 9-1-1 to report an impaired driver the dispatcher will ask for the make and model of the car, license plate number, route and direction, and, if possible, a description of the driver.

If you see and call about a suspected DUI driver be careful

Authorities warn however to never get to close or do something that could put you in danger. That happened to a driver in Yakima earlier this year. The driver followed the suspected DUI driver only to be threatened with a gun after the suspect driver stopped and confronted the reporting driver before driving away. The suspect driver was eventually arrested.

State officials say a lot of drivers are drinking and smoking before driving

Not only are the extra patrols out looking for drunk drivers but also drugged drivers. In fact state officials say "statistics show that 2020 had the highest number of polydrug drivers in fatal crashes in state history. Polydrug drivers are those impaired by more than one substance, usually alcohol and cannabis. And despite fewer drivers being on the road during the pandemic shutdown, 2020 saw the highest number of DUI- involved in fatal crashes, overall, since 2006. Preliminary data for 2021 indicate the trend may be continuing, with August of this year the deadliest on Washington’s roads since 1997."

You can save a life if you take action before someone gets behind the wheel

Mark Medalen, program manager at the Washington Traffic Safety Commission says "everyone can be a hero when it comes to saving a life from someone driving drunk or high. That means making a plan that doesn’t put you behind the wheel if you are drinking or using cannabis. Most people in Washington will also step in to protect lives by preventing someone else from driving impaired.”

Here are some tips for self-care during the pandemic:


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