Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: DUI

June
10th

Thumbs up for anti-distracted driving patrols

Recent emphasis patrols in the South Sound region ticketed more drivers for texting than did similar patrols in 2012. (LM Otero, The Associated Press)
Recent emphasis patrols in the South Sound region ticketed more drivers for texting than did similar patrols in 2012. (LM Otero, The Associated Press)

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The figures are in from last month’s distracted driver emphasis patrols, and the verdict is: Plenty of us are, indeed, driving distracted.

During the week of May 20, patrols in many communities statewide focused on pulling over drivers who were illegally using handheld cellphones or texting. They nabbed 1,448, compared with 1,059 in 2012 — a 36 percent increase. If drivers are at all intimidated by the prospect of a $124 ticket, it’s not showing.

Here’s a hero of the emphasis patrols: the Gig Harbor police officer who single-handedly ticketed 101 of the 139 drivers the department caught using their cellphones.

Another shout-out to the Puyallup Police Department, which employed a tag-team approach on busy Meridian Avenue. One officer on the street served as a spotter, alerting another to make the stop and issue the ticket. In the first two days of the department’s three-day emphasis patrol, 79 tickets were issued for texting or talking on handheld phones. Read more »

May
16th

America’s on the wrong end of DUI standards

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The Washington Legislature has been wrestling lately with ways to bring down drunk driving fatalities. Now it’s got another option to look at.

The people charged with making the nation’s roads less deadly, the National Transportation Safety Board, called on states Tuesday to reduce the legal limit of blood alcohol from .08 percent to .05 percent. There’ll be the usual complaints about nanny statism, but the board makes quite a case.

Start with the fact that the United States and Canada are virtually alone among the world’s developed countries – including Europe, Russia and nearly all of Asia – in permitting people to drive with .08 percent ethanol running through their brains.

According to the NTSB’s new report, the laws of more than 100 nations consider drivers intoxicated if they have .05 percent in their blood. Some forbid any level above .00.

Why? Because lower thresholds save lives.

The board cites many studies indicating that serious impairment begins well below .08. At .05, drivers – on average – are 38 percent more likely to cause crashes than if they drank nothing before they drove.

The “average” part is important. Some people have higher tolerances for alcohol, some lower. A safety rule should be calibrated to the drivers most – not least – likely to kill others.
Someone who does fine at .07 percent wouldn’t likely be nabbed in the first place, because officers must have probable cause – e.g., seeing the car swerving erratically – before they pull someone over on suspicion of DUI.

But .07 is a long way from safe for most drivers. The report found that someone driving with that much alcohol has twice the risk of crashing as a sober driver.

In the United States, unless you hang around with street gangs, you are far more likely to get killed by a drunk on the road than by a thug with a handgun. In any given year, the number of Americans killed by drunk drivers exceeds the combined U.S. military deaths in both the Iraq and Afghan wars since 2001.
Read more »

April
20th

Throw every legal penalty in sight at DUI drivers

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to make the case for cracking down harder on drunken and drugged driving, as Gov. Jay Inslee has just proposed.

Where to begin? Last time we visited this subject, three weeks ago, we cited the appalling case of a multiple offender accused of plowing into a family – killing two of them – in Seattle.
We could have mentioned the Gig Harbor man charged with vehicular homicide last month after ­– according to police – he crashed his car at high speed near Purdy and killed

Read more »

April
8th

Toking and tippling make for a deadly cocktail

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Forget the Legislature. The real action this year is at the Liquor Control Board.

Under Initiative 502, the board is charged with making an item of two things that normally mix like oil and water – marijuana and regulation.

The new law is, well, a law. It legalizes pot but also tells stoners what they can and can’t do. Stoners tend not to be obsessed with legalities.

The oil and water have yet to mix. The latest example is two South Sound bars – Stonegate in Tacoma and Frankie’s Sports Bar and

Read more »

March
28th

More must be done to stop repeat drunk drivers

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Tragedy often has a predictable aftermath: first shock and grief, then anger.

We’re at the anger stage right now, grasping for how to react to the horrendous, senseless vehicular homicide that occurred Monday in a Seattle neighborhood.

A repeat drunken driver authorities say was again under the influence struck four family members out for an afternoon stroll. Two of them, retired schoolteachers Judy and Dennis Schulte, died at the scene. Their newborn grandson and daughter-in-law, a pediatric nurse, were critically injured.

The driver, Mark W. Mullan, has a long DUI history dating to the early 1990s. Read more »