The Washington State Traffic Safety Commission has announced extra Driving Under the Influence (DUI) patrols starting in August and running through Labor Day Weekend (see link at the end of this post). This can be an especially dangerous time on the roadways around Spokane as many people are taking road trips over the long holiday weekend and before school starts in September. Anything that impairs or distracts a driver, like alcohol, drugs, cell phones or sleep deprivation, can have terrible consequences!

This press release announcing the additional DUI patrols also discusses “poly-drug” DUI’s. These are DUI investigations where the evidence shows the driver has multiple substances that may impair their ability to drive a motor vehicle. The press release implies this is a recent trend and that poly-drug DUI’s are becoming more common and cites a recent study showing a steady increase in the number of poly-drug fatality collisions. The chart being cited for this finding shows that since 2011/2012 the frequency of three types of fatal DUI collisions – poly-drug, THC or Marijuana only and one drug only (no THC or alcohol) – has nearly doubled.

The fact that all three types of fatal crashes – poly-drug, THC or Marijuana only and one drug only (no THC or alcohol) – have had such an increase may lead to another conclusion. It is possible law enforcement is more sensitive and better trained today to recognize substances other than alcohol that may impair drivers and cause DUI’s. Greater awareness and recognition by law enforcement today could lead to more fatal collisions being listed as drug related and may not necessarily mean there has been an increase in the number of drivers who have multiple substances in their body.

The concern over poly-drug DUI’s has certainly led to more blood draw DUI’s since Washington State’s current breath test machines (BAC Datamaster and Draeger) only measure for alcohol. If a law enforcement officer believes the driver is impaired by other substances, then they will likely request a search warrant from a judge for a blood draw. The process for obtaining a search warrant for a blood draw has become more streamlined the past decade, which could also contribute to more accurate data regarding which drugs are in the body of drivers involved in fatal collisions.

Of course, the best way to avoid a DUI is to plan ahead. Whether it’s Labor Day Weekend or not, if you do find yourself facing an alcohol DUI, marijuana DUI or any other drug related DUI, then it is best to immediately consult with an experienced attorney who can properly advise you on the legal issues specific to your case.