COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants, bars may have made roads safer

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — According to data from a public records request with Washington State Patrol, drunk driving crashes in the North Sound are currently the lowest in several years.

In the period between February 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021, there were 335 drunk driving collisions within Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom and Island Counties. That compared to 396 cases in the comparable time frame a year earlier. It also marks the lowest number of crashes since at least 2014.

Troopers with Washington State Patrol were quick to credit COVID-19-related closures of bars and restaurants for the decline.

“That means people aren’t getting killed or getting injured for life, and all the stuff you got to go through when those kinds of things happen,” said Karen Minahan, who served a crash from a drunk driver. “I lost my right leg at the scene,” she noted. “I flatlined twice at the scene, I flatlined once at the hospital… (and spent) 30 days in a coma at Harborview.”

Fewer cases mean Nick Keyock is also affected.

As one of the organizers of the DUI Victims Panel in Washington, he said many of his newest cases are coming from elsewhere.

“We’ve had a lot of people come to our panel from Florida, New York, right now we’re getting a lot of people from the middle of the country”

It’s anybody’s guess if this trend will continue post-COVID-19.

Yet, one thing is for sure. People who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers will never stop feeling the pain.

In Keyock’s case, it’s for his nephew.

“He’ll never get to know my kids, he’ll never get to know my significant other. That’s honestly what I wish more than anything,” Keyock told KIRO 7.

Statewide, 2020 also saw the fewest alcohol-involved crashes in a decade.

According to Washington State Patrol, a total of 5,300 collisions were reported across that state last year. That compared 8,400 incidents as recently as 2017.