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DUIs In Washington Continue Downward Trend After Liquor Sales Privatization

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network

The Washington State Patrol has compiled a full year of data covering drunk driving arrests and crashes since private retailers took over liquor sales in the state.

So far, the voter-approved liquor privatization has not altered the long term downward trend of DUI cases.

Hard alcohol is much more widely available since grocers, big box stores and other private retailers started selling it in Washington state in June of last year. But increased availability did not bring increased mayhem on the roads to judge from stats toted up by the Washington State Patrol.

Alcohol-related crashes investigated by troopers and citations issued in the year following privatization continued a slow, long term decline.

The data heartens privatization supporters including Jason Mercier, the director of government reform at the think tank Washington Policy Center.

"The fears did not come true," he says. "Where you buy your liquor is not the determining factor in what the impact of the usage is going to be. And that's what we're seeing from the statistics thus far."

A spokesman for the state patrol urged caution about drawing correlations between DUI arrest and collision rates and broader public behavior. "The biggest reason for arrest data to change is police staffing," says the patrol's Bob Calkins. "But, we'd agree that things haven't completely gone to pieces."

The passage of Washington's privatization initiative inspired talk of a copycat ballot measure in Oregon. However, no one has filed an initiative there yet.

On the Web:

Alcohol-Related Arrests Continue to Decrease After Liquor Privatization - Washington Policy Center 

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.