Christmas and New Years are supposed to be times for celebration. Many of us take time off from work to travel and visit family, reflect on the past year and prepare our resolutions for next year. In Spokane County and throughout the State of Washington, this can also be a dangerous time to be on the roadways. Although this year DUI arrests during Christmas through New Year’s Day appear to be lower relative to prior years, the holiday season is typically a busy time for law enforcement officers who are trying to keep our roads safe from impaired drivers.

Several factors lead to DUI arrests being historically higher in Spokane County during the holiday season. Many people take vacation during this time. For many folks being on vacation mean enjoying a few drinks with dinner or while watching their favorite basketball or football teams at a sports bar. Other people may travel back to where they grew up and catch up with old friends over a pitcher of beer at their old bar. Of course, there are also the actual New Year’s Eve celebrations all over town. These activities and events all add up to more people driving on the roadways after consuming alcohol.

From the law enforcement side, Washington State Patrol (WSP) often conducts DUI Emphasis Patrols from Thanksgiving through January. When a DUI Emphasis is in effect, there are additional law enforcement officers on duty and on the roadways throughout the State of Washington. These additional officers often have specialized DUI training. They focus on conducting traffic stops for violations found to correlate with driver impairment such as aggressive driving, driving without headlights or weaving outside of lane lines.

There are some years where there are actually fewer DUI arrests from Thanksgiving through January. This may occur during bad weather events. Many folks choose to stay home during extremely bad weather rather than risk an accident while driving to and from their favorite restaurant or bar. Additionally, during bad weather law enforcement officers focus on responding to collisions and traffic management and are not able to conduct as many traffic stops that could lead to DUI investigations.

Old advice is often the best: plan ahead by having a designated driver. You should also know your rights and know what to do in case you are stopped by law enforcement and find yourself under investigation for DUI.