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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Rates of drunk driving have fallen

While many people in Washington are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs each year, federal data shows that the rate of drunk driving is falling nationwide. The rate of driving under the influence of drugs has remained about the same, however.

The data comes from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that was conducted in 2014. In the survey, 11.1 percent of drivers ages 16 and older reported that they had driven under the influence of alcohol at least once during that year. By contrast, 15.3 percent of respondents reported that they had driven drunk in 2002, showing a decline. In addition, 4.1 percent of the respondents in 2014 reported that they had driven while under the influence of drugs, and 2.4 percent reported that they had driven while under the influence of both alcohol and drugs.

Young men have the highest rates of drunk driving. More than 20 percent of men between the ages of 21 and 25 have driven while they were under the influence of alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes the declines in drunk driving rates to stronger enforcement, public awareness campaigns and ignition interlock systems.

Drunk driving is treated seriously by the judicial system. People who are charged with the offense may be incarcerated, fined, lose their driving privileges and be ordered to complete mandatory treatment if they are convicted. They may also have to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles and face increased insurance rates for several years. A criminal defense attorney could mount a challenge to the charges in a number of ways, depending upon the circumstances. In most cases, officers must have at least reasonable suspicion that an offense is being committed when a traffic stop is made, and the attorney could question whether the stop that led to the arrest met that minimum standard.

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