On New Year's Eve, a Pasco man was killed in a car accident involving a suspected drunk driver. Clifford T. Barker, 58 years old, of Kennewick was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide. Barker was apparently driving his 1995 Ford pickup truck eastbound in the westbound lane of Interstate 182. Barker's truck collided with an SUV driven by Martin Sanchez-Andrade, before the truck continued into a Honda Civic.
Despite wearing his seatbelt, Sanchez-Andrade was killed in the crash. Sanchez-Andrade was a sanitation worker, and lived in the area nearly 20 years. He is the father of six children and eight grandchildren. His two passengers, girls aged 11 and 12 were unharmed. The driver of the Civic was also unharmed. Meanwhile, Barker was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland where he was treated for injuries sustained in the crash. He was to be booked into the Franklin County Jail upon release from medical care.
Half a dozen more drivers were arrested over the New Year's holiday in Benton and Franklin counties alone. This includes another driver involved in a wrong-way accident on Interstate 182. Laura C. Granados, 18 years old, of Mattawa was heading southbound on the northbound 395 ramp to I-182 and was heading directly into a Ford Expedition. Magdalena Ruiz-Alarcon, the driver of the Expedition, maneuvered to avoid the head on crash, resulting the the rear of her car being ripped off.
Granados was not wearing a seatbelt while Ruiz-Alarcon was. Both drivers were taken to Kadlec Medical Center. Granados has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Although Granados' blood alcohol concentration (BAC) has not yet been released, because she was under the age of 21, a 0.01 percent BAC is the DUI limit for underage drivers.
Another under-21 driver was recently arrested on suspicion of DUI. In Kennewick, Angella Whitis, a 19-year-old woman speeding down highway 240 lost control of her car, swerved off the road with her car landing upside down off the side of the road. Washington State Troopers said Whitis had obvious signs of drinking alcohol. According to news reports, there have been nearly 30 DUI arrests in the Tri-City area since the weekend before Christmas. Although so far, the State Patrol has not released the statewide number of DUI arrests.
Across the state police, patrols were stepped up in anticipation of the busy holiday period, which traditionally carries a peak in drunk driving incidents. The program Target Zero has the goal of eliminating all Washington State traffic deaths by 2030. Part of that program is to have additional troopers on the road with increased visibility. According to State Trooper Michael Cortez, “I believe what helps a lot is just the additional troopers.” He continued, “additional troopers to where we are pulling people over and people are actually seeing us out on the roadside.”
Over the holiday season 120 state police agencies increased patrols with the goal of reducing DUI-related accidents. The increased patrols were in part funded by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. Although the holiday fatality numbers are not yet in, it is unclear whether there has been a decrease in traffic fatalities since the implementation of Target Zero.