Washington State Fights Drunk Driving

Washington State is pretty serious about fighting drunk driving and has some good laws on the books, including a law which requires all DUI offenders to use ignition interlocks.  But some lawmakers and police agencies say there is more that can be done.

One thing, in particular, they’re after– allow traffic police to draw blood from suspects for a DUI blood test.

When a drunk driving suspect is pulled over, police do a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer test. The first tests coordination, the second gives a reading of a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Neither test, however, is admissible as evidence. A DUI blood test, however, is. From a suspect’s blood, an accurate alcohol level can be calculated, which can be used as evidence in court.

Normally a suspect has to be brought to a hospital so a phlebotomist can draw the blood. This takes time and uses up hospital resources. But the town of Lakewood, Washington started a program to train officers as forensic phlebotomists, so they could draw blood at the station. This allows them to bypass the hospital and get back to duty faster.

The idea has spread to the county level and might go even further.  A House bill was drafted to ease requirements for phlebotomists so that it would be easier for police to obtain certification, but it didn’t get too far.

This effort is an example of creative thinking that could help take more drunk drivers off the road. One more area that needs creative thinking is ignition interlock compliance. As was noted above, Washington state requires ignition interlock devices of all offenders but does not do an adequate job of seeing that offenders actually install the devices. Better interlock compliance would mean safer roads in Washington.

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