With nearly half of drunk-driving arrests teenagers and minors under 21 years old, Sammamish Police say they're worried by the trend and are inviting the community to a public forum next week at City Hall to talk about it.
According to a report on MyNorthwest.com, forty percent of the yearly drunk driving arrests in Sammamish involve people under the age of 21, and many of the drivers are under 18.
And the rate in which Sammamish teens are doing it, said the story, far outpaces its neighboring communities. Cities like Redmond and Issaquah report that about 10 to 15 percent of their drunk driving arrests involve people under 21.
"This is a great community, with great kids," said Sammamish Police Chief Nate Elledge. "Per capita, this community has more kids than any other in the state of Washington ... So when you put it all in perspective, it is a community issue."
He has taken a heightened interest in the issue, starting with the creation of a "Youth Impaired Driving Initiative," is intended to bring together all segments of the community to find out why so many more kids are drinking and driving compared to other nearby cities, and what can be done to prevent it.
According to the 2012 Healthy Youth Survey — a questionaire given bi-annually to the state's high school and middle school students — too many teens are drinking and driving: One in 10 12th graders (11 percent) drove a vehicle after drinking, while about one in five students rode in a car with a driver who had been drinking: 21 percent of 12th graders; 19 percent of 10th graders; and 17 percent of 8th graders.
"This is not just a law enforcement problem," he said. "This is a community problem. We want to prevent impaired driving before it happens. We're looking at why is this happening, and how can we prevent it."
A Youth Impaired Driving Initiative community meeting, hosted by Sammamish Police Sgt. Jessica Sullivan, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27 at Sammamish City Hall.