Drunk driving continues to take a toll in Washington

Drunk drivers engage in reckless driving behavior, often resulting in horrendous car crashes which cause severe injuries such as traumatic brain injury.

According to a Washington State Patrol media statement released earlier this year, Mothers Against Drunk Driving increased Washington States' overall ranking, in its campaign to eliminate drunk driving, from three stars to four stars. The higher ranking is due to Washington's legislative efforts to tackle drunk driving such as requiring ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders. Despite progress in combating drunk driving, much remains to be done. A few months ago, KOMO-TV reported that a drunk driver in Burien caused a multi-car collision leaving behind a pile of "twisted metal" on State Route 509. At least two innocent motorists sustained serious personal injuries in the pile-up.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving estimates that approximately 350,000 people each year suffer personal injuries sustained in car accidents caused by drunk drivers. Over 10,000 fatalities annually are attributed to drunk driving. Drunk and impaired drivers contribute to 50 percent of the total traffic fatalities in Washington State.

One of the reasons auto accidents are likely when a driver is impaired is that the drunk driver suffers from impaired judgment and reasoning skills. Moreover, the drunk driver's vision is negatively impacted. Because their depth perception is impaired, drunk drivers cannot safely judge distances nor can they react quickly enough to apply the brakes to avoid collisions.

According to the authors of the Washington State Strategic Highway Safety Plan, a drunk driver is 40 percent more likely than a sober driver to disobey signs, signals and rules of the road. Drunk drivers often engage in actions such as reckless passing. Sometimes a driver's intoxication causes him or her to drift over the center line, thereby precipitating a head-on collision. Head-on collisions often result in head, neck, spinal and chest injuries. Less life-threatening injuries can occur to the legs and feet. Since 40 percent of intoxicated drivers engage in speeding, drunk driving accidents are likely to involve a high-speed collision, thereby increasing the severity of injuries.

According to MADD, drunk driving crashes often result in traumatic brain injuries. If someone sustains a brain injury in an impaired driving high-speed crash, his or her brain is bounced back and forth within the skull, which can cause bruising to the brain and bleeding. Closed-head injuries are a type of traumatic brain injury. Closed-head injuries can result from a blow to the head as occurs when the head strikes the windshield or dashboard in an automobile accident. This can result in anything from skull fractures to brain blood clots and nerve damage. TBIs are serious injuries, which are often fatal.

Combating impaired driving

Undoubtedly, Washington State's comprehensive ignition interlock law has saved lives and prevented serious personal injuries. The Washington State Department of Transportation recognizes that better law enforcement and prosecutor training is needed to deal with DUI enforcement. The state plans to use sophisticated data analysis to help law enforcement officers pinpoint locations with a history of serious injury collisions relating to impaired driving. The DOT also intends to continue to educate the public as to the dangers of drunk driving.

Seeking compensation

No one deserves to be injured or die as a result of a foolish decision by an intoxicated driver to get behind the wheel and drive when he or she should know better. Drunk drivers put at risk themselves, their passengers and other motorists. Washington State permits those injured by a drunk driver to sue for compensation for any injuries sustained. If you or a loved one has been injured by an impaired driver, you should contact an attorney skilled at handling car accident cases.

Keywords: drunk driving, car accident, brain injury