An open letter to the public from Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas:
Holidays encourage time with your family and friends. Most people celebrate America’s independence by lighting fireworks on the 4th of July. Many celebrate Valentine’s Day by sending flowers. In addition to the fireworks and flowers, some people celebrate holidays with alcohol too. Unfortunately, these aren’t always responsible celebrations and, we see a spike in impaired driving arrests and crashes. My message to you today is celebrate safely – choose a safe ride home if your celebration involves alcohol.
St. Patrick’s Day is approaching on March 17th. While the holiday is commonly known for Irish culture, corned beef & hash, shamrocks, and wearing green, it is also known for drink specials at bars and restaurants, green beer, fun runs with beer gardens, and a massive advertisement campaign sponsored by the alcohol industry. Unfortunately, some people think luck is on their side and fail to plan ahead before drinking at these events.
Too many times, law enforcement must knock on the door of a home to notify loved ones of the tragedy that occurred. I have seen too many tears shed and too many hearts broken. Alcohol-related traffic crashes don’t only affect the impaired driver; one-third of these deaths are passengers, occupants in other vehicles, or pedestrians. And the societal and emotional costs are never ending.
These deaths and crashes do not need to happen. We all have a role in making our roads safer. Law enforcement will be out for DUI patrols across the State in hopes that our presence will discourage impaired driving and remove dangerous drivers from our roads. Last year in King County, 310 people were arrested for DUI during the St. Patrick’s DUI campaign from March 11-20th. This number tells us there is still much work to do.
If you are going to drink this St. Patrick’s Day, please plan a safe ride home before your party begins. Designate a sober driver, take a taxi or the bus, and help your friends do the same. If you’re planning a party at your house that includes alcohol, you can be held liable if a guest is involved in a DUI crash. Make sure there is plenty of food available, offer non-alcohol drinks, and help guests locate a safe ride home or provide a place for people to stay.
I want to remind you that law enforcement officers from Kent Police and other King County police departments enforce DUI and traffic laws on our roadways as part of Washington State’s Target Zero plan. What is the goal? Zero alcohol-related driving fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. Our officers and troopers participate in DUI emphasis patrols throughout the year and during major holidays, including this St. Patrick’s Day.
Please celebrate safely this St. Patrick’s Day. If your celebration involves alcohol, please choose a safe ride – don’t get behind the wheel. Please keep us from having to knock on anyone else’s door. Be Safe and thanks for reading.
Kent Police Chief