Category Archives: Washington State Traffic Commission

“Studies” Show Pot-Related Accidents Doubled from 2013-2014

 

 

Newly released data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) shows that marijuana is increasing as a factor in deadly crashes. The number of marijuana-impaired drivers involved in accidents has nearly doubled at a 48% increase from 2013 to 2014.

“We have seen marijuana involvement in fatal crashes remain steady over the years, and then it just spiked in 2014,” said Dr. Staci Hoff, WTSC Data and Research Director.

Also , Julie Furlong of the WTSC said 60% of the drivers involved in fatal or deadly crashes between 2010 and 2014 were tested for drugs. Of those tested, about 20% were positive for pot. These figures match those of previous years, they remained about the same year after year.

New testing and new analytics are now allowing the WTSC to determine specific THC levels at the time the driver is tested following an incident or crash. It’s called “active THC,” or enough to impair the driver’s coordination and judgement.  According to the WTSC, less than half of drivers who tested positive for pot in 2010 had active TCH. However, that number increased to 65% in 2013, and skyrocketed to 85% in 2014.

Dr.Staci Hoff, Data and Research Director for the Commission, says that simply means 85% of the drivers involved in deadly-fatal collisions in 2014 who had pot in their system were actually high at the time of the accident.

Young men between the ages of 21-25 have seen the greatest jump,  with over a 66% increase.

Some argue these facts show that since the legalization of marijuana in Washington state, we now face a potential epidemic of impaired drivers who are high behind the wheel. As a consequence, the National Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is gaining momentum. From now through Labor Day, extra law enforcement officers are patrolling areas and locations where DUI is a problem.

Over 100 law enforcement agencies including all districts of the Washington State Patrol will be teaming up and participating in the extra patrols all across the state. These extra patrols are all part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030.

My opinion?

First, only 60% of fatal car crash victims were tested for drugs. Without understanding how this 60% was arrived at, we run the risk of a data selection bias.

Second, if 20% of the group tested positive for marijuana then this only reflects the actual percentage of cannabis users in the state; which, by itself, is not a very convincing argument of anything.

Third, we need more data. You can’t jump to conclusions based on data that’s too new. It needs more time to be compared against other factors. We don’t hear anything else about possible confounding factors to this data, which also raises serious suspicions. However even this admission whittles marijuana as the sole culprit down to maximum of 10% of all fatal crashes.

Fourth, the data comes on the heels of new DUI emphasis patrols. Sounds like a media spin to me.

Finally, what we really need to know is how many fatal accidents occurred solely for users of marijuana over the limit. This number would be the best indication of a causal relationship if confounding factors were accounted for and the sample size was unbiased.

Distracted Driving Crashes Worse Than Previously Suspected

Other reports found that Smartphone technology increased the use of cellphones by drivers beyond basic calls and texts -- including Social Media and GPS applications.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers, but a new study suggests a far bigger problem.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which released a 2012 study using statistics based on police reports, previously estimated that teen distracted driving constituted 14 percent of all collisions. That study showed that teen drivers were distracted almost a quarter of the time they were behind the wheel.  Electronic devices, such as texting, emails, and downloading music, were among the biggest distractions, accounting for 7% of the distractions identified on the study video.

However, a study released in March by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety which used live footage instead of police reports. Their latest study on distracted driving found a 400 percent increase and concluded that distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes. AAA analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle cameras they knew were in their cars.

Teen Driver Distraction Crashes Infographic

My opinion? Eventually, “Distracted Driving” will be criminalized. It took decades for statistics on fatal drunken driving crashes to translate into tougher DWI laws. I’m sure that advocates for strict laws against cellphone use by drivers encounter the same detached attitude today.

Extra Police On The Prowl For Speeders

Be aware . . .

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2010/04/09/1376172/washington-state-extra-police.html

Bellingham Police Enforce Bicycle Laws More Heavily

With the onset of worsening weather conditions and fewer hours of daylight, a new “education and enforcement” effort is under way to help bicyclists and cars better share the road.

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/102/story/1127253.html

Under the new program, police officers are encouraged to treat bicyclists equal to drivers when it comes to stopping and ticketing people for traffic violations. Officers will specifically be looking for lighting violations, which include improperly equipped bicycles, and traffic violations, such as failing to obey stop signs and stop lights.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission provides a free brochure on its Web site which outlines safety tips for bicyclists as well as the laws bicyclists must follow:

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/bike/Laws.htm

My Opinion?  I’m not buying it.  Can we say, “New and creative way to ticket people and generate revenue for empty City coffers?”  Personally, I don’t see the need for “education and enforcement” of bicycle laws.  No accidents have happened.  There’s no great increase of bicyclists (I’d think fewer, given worse weather conditions).  There’s no growing agitation between bicyclists and motorists.  If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it.

My greatest concern is that police have more incentive to pull bicyclists over and conduct a DUI investigation. Section 45.61.502 of the Revised Code of Washington, which details driving under the influence and penalties, refers to people driving a vehicle. A vehicle, as defined in section 46.04.670, “includes every device capable of being moved upon a public highway and in, upon, or by which any persons or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, including bicycles.”

Not good for bicyclists . . .

State v. King: Out-Of-Jurisdiction Police Cannot Arrest Unless Emergency Exists

Excellent opinion.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=809488MAJ

Tyler King was riding his motorcycle southbound on Interstate 5 north of Vancouver city limits when he was stopped and issued a criminal citation for reckless driving by Vancouver police officer Jeff Starks. King had stood up on the pegs of his motorcycle, looked at the vehicle he was approaching, and  accelerated to pass the vehicle. King and Starks both testified at the trial, offering different interpretations of the facts. Starks offered opinion testimony that King’s driving had been reckless, which King’s attorney did not object to at trial but then raised on appeal. King also challenged that the officer was outside of his jurisdiction without an interlocal agreement and without satisfying the statutory emergency exception.

The Supreme Court held that Officer Starks did not have jurisdiction to issue the criminal citation. They reasoned that Stark’s  interpretation of King’s actions would not have constituted “an emergency involving an immediate threat to human life or property.”

King did not nearly hit another car, nor run a light, nor weave across traffic lanes. He did not pop a wheelie, cut off another car, nor, for that matter, drive in reverse along the shoulder. At most, King glared at the driver of the large truck, stood on his foot pegs for three to five seconds, and accelerated at high speed past the truck. As aforementioned, Starks could not verify that King accelerated away at what he thought was 100 m.p.h. Even so, the officer testified King slowed down as he approached other traffic and pulled over immediately when Starks signaled him to do so.

The majority concludes that the trial court was wrong to simply take the definition of reckless driving and assume that it “automatically fit within the emergency exception.” The majority also suggests that the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that the opinion testimony issue was foreclosed by the lack of an objection at trial.

My opinion?  Again, good decision.  Reckless Driving does not always involve racing, road rage, emergency situations or life-threatening behavior.  Let’s be frank: some people simply enjoy horsing around while driving!  The Supremes rightfully disagreed with the trial court and saw the situation for what it was: people slightly agitated with each other’s driving, a brief increase in speed, and it’s over.  Nobody goes crazy, and/or gets mad, violent or injured.  Period.  It’d be a miscarriage of justice to allow out-of-jurisdiction officers to arrest people based on those circumstances.

X52 Program Leads to Increased DUI Patrols and Arrests

This past Labor Day Weekend, the Washington State Patrol made 296 arrests for suspicion of Driving Under the Influence.  That’s slightly higher than the 292 arrests WSP made over the same weekend in 2008.  In a recent report released by the WSP, there were 44 calls from concerned motorists which led to 20 arrests for suspicion of DUI.  The increased arrests — and inevitable prosecutions — are directly attributed to Washington State Patrol’s (WSP)  implementation of the X52 anti-DUI campaign.

X52 stands for extra patrols 52 weeks per year. The goal of the X52 program is to reduce speeding and DUI-related traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roads.

Under the program, Washington Traffic Safety Commission released $450,000 worth of grants to local law enforcement agencies to help them provide additional impaired driving and speed patrols every week of the year.  These sustained enforcement patrols specifically target speed and DUI offenders, as well as look for other traffic violations. The program is being administered statewide through a network of community traffic safety task forces.

The X52 program also includes initiatives designed to let the public know that these extra patrols are happening in Washington every week. $450,000 is budgeted for paid radio advertising and alternative messaging. Earned media efforts will be spearheaded by community traffic safety task forces.

My opinion?  Clearly, the WSP is aggressively campaigning the X52 program.  I foresee even greater DUI patrol this holiday season.  For more information on X52, click the link below.

http://www.wtsc.wa.gov/programs/x52.php