Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

New DUI penalties a bit of good news amidst a bloody week

Post by Brian O'Neill on July 21, 2013 at 10:04 am with No Comments »
July 22, 2013 11:30 am

If one were looking for confirmation that summertime and bloodshed go hand in hand, the proof was scattered throughout the local news this week.

Here are a few in no particular order:

  • An 18-year-old is injured following a drive-by shooting in Tacoma;
  • A Puyallup man is arrested for first degree murder when sheriff’s deputies search his blood-soaked apartment for links to a missing man;
  • A 16-year-old is in custody after a fatal stabbing in Renton;
  • Two people are wounded in a Seattle shooting;
  • A stabbing melee in Olympia leaves two men hospitalized;

In other words, it was a typically violent week around Puget Sound. But if one were willing to look hard enough, there was also a glimmer of hope among the wreckage.

Picture courtesy of
Picture courtesy of

Turns out our new governor came to town* on Thursday, along with the families and friends who lost loved ones in fatal DUI collisions. With a flourish of Governor Inslee’s pen, Washington toughened up its impaired driving laws (TNT 7/19).

Compared to the torrential reports of violent altercations (bad news sells, right?), this is pretty bland stuff. Nevertheless, any progress on addressing DUI fatalities is worth a second mention.
The death and injury toll from impaired driving is staggering. According to the Center for Disease Control, 10,228 people were killed by drunk drivers in the U.S. in 2010 alone. That number is almost equal to the CDC’s estimate for firearms homicides in that same year (11,078).
The measure, which takes effect in September, mandates a custodial arrest for a suspected impaired driver with one prior DUI conviction. While this may seem to be a minimal alteration (it was severely scaled back from a costlier legislative version), against the backdrop of such large numbers even a small impact could easily outnumber the toll of violent deaths and injuries which occurred across the region this past week.
Of course the problem will remain. Despite chilling fatalities almost equivalent to those attributed to street gangs, deranged killers and domestic abusers, drinking and driving is still perceived as a minor offense. Perhaps it is because drunk drivers come from all walks of life, most of them believing they are good people who may occasionally have one drink too many before sliding behind the wheel.
Until that perception changes in our nation’s collective gray matter, our governor and legislators should not set their pens down confident that the job is done. This is just the first step.
10,228 is a big number. But subtracting even a single one is worth all the effort.
*The governor’s choice of Tacoma as backdrop for the signing should be seen as vindication for Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, whose aggressive stance on DUI and exceptionally skilled staff continue to champion the cause of victims and their families.
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