How To Help
If you see a driver who appears to be under the influence or driving recklessly, call 911 with the vehicle’s description, license plate number, location and direction of travel.
Traffic fatalities ended 39 lives last year in Clark County.
The county’s traffic deaths in 2014 were twice as high as they were in 2013, and higher than any other year in the last decade. The increase in traffic fatalities also bucks the statewide trend, in which the number of deaths has stayed more or less flat in recent years, said Staci Hoff, director of research at the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
“There’s nothing out there that says why all of a sudden we took that jump,” said Marion Swendson, manager of Clark County’s Target Zero program, a statewide effort to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious-injury crashes by 2030.
Last year’s fatal crashes happened for a variety of reasons, whether it was speed, a driver mistake, the driver having a medical problem or — the top cause — driving under the influence.
For years motorists under the influence of drugs or alcohol have been the leading cause of local traffic deaths. In 2014, they accounted for at least 14 lives lost. Allegedly, two drivers in those cases were under the influence of pot, some had taken other drugs and most had been drinking.
“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and “Drive High, Get a DUI” are slogans that police and traffic safety organizations constantly try to reiterate to the public, though they aren’t able to reach everyone.
Driving under the influence is “like having a loaded gun going down the road. You have no idea when it’s going to go off,” said Vancouver police traffic Sgt. Pat Johns.
Investigating DUIs and fatal crashes is complex and requires a lot of expertise, Johns said, and it’s a daunting task for traffic units that are smaller than they used to be.
Officers stretched thin
Johns’ traffic unit is made up of just four people. Traffic Officer Dustin Goudschaal is on leave after he was shot during a routine traffic stop in June. So, the group is down to three.