EVERETT — With a spike in drivers using both alcohol and marijuana, extra police patrols will be out across Snohomish County and the state from 4 p.m. Saturday to early Sunday morning looking for impaired drivers.
The event coincides with “420” day, an annual marijuana use celebration, which brings cannabis-oriented events to the area, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
Officers see an increase in impaired driving on days such as St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Cinco De Mayo and Halloween, especially if the day falls over a weekend, said Stacey McShane, manager of the county’s Target Zero program.
The top factor in fatal crashes in the state is alcohol or drugs, contributing to nearly half of all traffic deaths, according to a report by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
Participating police departments in the DUI patrol include Arlington, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Lake Stevens, Edmonds and Everett. The Washington State Patrol and the sheriff’s office will also be part of the event.
In total, about 15 additional officers will be out on Saturday, patrolling high-traffic areas in the county.
“We try to cover as much of the county as we can,” McShane said. “We do arrest a lot of people on these patrols.”
Statewide, 175 more officers will look for impaired drivers, said Bob Thompson, with the Safety Commission.
“We are never going to tell people not to party, that would fall on deaf ears,” he said, “but make a plan and have a better way to get home.”
Nine percent of drivers admit to driving after consuming alcohol and cannabis, Thompson said, citing an agency report.
“At any one time, that’s a lot of people in Washington,” he said.
In 2012, when recreational marijuana became legal in the state, drivers who have consumed two substances, such as alcohol and marijuana, were involved in more fatal crashes than people who had used one, the Safety Commission report found. Since then, that rate has been increasing by 15 percent a year.
“The younger demographic seems to think that weed is not impairing and doesn’t hurt your driving,” Thompson said.
Those drivers believe they can counteract the effect of alcohol with weed, he said. And in general, people don’t always realize they are impaired and think they can drive home safely.
“Because you just don’t know, why take the chance?” he added. “A lot of people we come across are first-time offenders.”
He urged people to find an alternative way home, taxi, Lyft, Uber or public transit.