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Bill would crack down on drunken drivers

Post by Katie Schmidt on March 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm with 8 Comments »
March 22, 2011 1:23 pm

After Frank Blair of Tacoma lost his 24-year-old daughter to a head-on collision with a drunk driver in 2010, he vowed to take his cause to the state Legislature and try to convince lawmakers that they need to toughen penalties for drinking and driving in Washington.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing on House Bill 1789, a measure that contains some of the provisions Blair said he hopes will become law in the state, including increased jail time for first-time offenders convicted of driving under the influence and expanded use of ignition-interlock devices.

“Drunk driving strikes with the ruthless randomness and the devastation of a bolt of lightening,” said Blair at the hearing. “It’s time to start toughening up the laws in Washington State.”

The bill under consideration in the Legislature now is a combination of several proposals that have come out this session. It would require more offenders to use ignition interlock devices, which test blood alcohol content before allowing drivers to start their cars, and, more controversially, it would lengthen the minimum sentence that a first-time DUI offender must serve to three to seven days, depending on blood alcohol content.

The minimum sentence part of the bill used to be a separate bill, House Bill 1556, but when that measure did not make a floor vote before the cutoff deadline, its sponsor, Rep. Steve Kirby, successfully added it to House Bill 1789 as an amendment.

The controversy around that part of the proposal has two elements: first, opponents say, it would be expensive for local governments and, second, jail time has not proven to be a very successful deterrent when it comes to preventing people from driving drunk again.

Candice Bock of the Association of Washington Cities and Brian Enslow from the Washington Association of Counties both said added jail time for DUI offenses would be expensive.

Though the bill allows local governments to charge defendants for their own incarceration, Enslow said counties are generally only able to collect about 30 percent of that cost, mainly because many of the people who are required to pay for jail time are too poor to do so.

The bill does not yet have a fiscal not that takes into account the minimum sentencing amendment, but Enslow said it would probably cost local governments several million dollars per year.

Shelly Balwin of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission said it’s true that the commission had not found jail time prevented drunk drivers from being arrested for driving under the influence again, but ignition interlock devices had proven to be a more effective tool.

Overall, according to data from the commission, alcohol and drug impairment was the most common factor leading to traffic fatalities in Washington, contributing to about 48 percent of driving deaths between 2006 and 2008.

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Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. Soundlife says:

    This bill will never stand. Too many of our state lawmakers and too many of their family members would be put at risk by too restrictive anti DUI laws, as they once were with anti car theft laws . Better to do catch and release as we do with car thieves, and let the public watch out for their own safety…

  2. fbergford says:

    Here is something to think about…the majority of the legislators, their staff, lobbiests drink a ton! They have liquor cabinets in their offices, when they get wined and dined, drinking is involved and when it’s all said and done they drive home drunk!

  3. mo13yo13 says:

    Sounds like all cars should be equipped with the ignition interlock since that is all that works.

  4. WISEACRE says:

    IF YOU ARE GOING TO GO FOR ANOTHER DRUNK DRIVING LAW, THEN MAKE IT ALCOHOL AND DRUGS. MAKE IT A GOOD ONE, AND MAKE IT MANDATORY IN ALL 50 STATES, THE LAW SHOULD BE THE SAME IN EACH STATE.

    THERE IS NO DEFENSE IN DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS OR ALCOHOL

    1 TIME, CAR IS CONFISCATED, JAIL TIME MANDATORY, NO EXCEPTIONS, ALL DAMAGES PAID BY DRIVER, NOT HIS INSURANCE, LOSE OF LIFE, AN IMMEDIATE TICKET TO PRISON NO LAWYERS NEEDED. NO COST BUT A JUDGE TO TELL THE SENTENCE, LIFE,

  5. Shattah206 says:

    I’d like to see them REMOVE a loophole they added for ignition interlock a few years ago. it was originally required on any vehicle driven. Yes, that cost some folks their jobs. Bummer. But the real reason the drunks down in Olympia changed it so the device isn’t required in a work rig is because they are a bunch of self-employed realtors who can legally call their own cars the “work vehicle.” They tried to get that amendment through on its own and failed, so the following year they snuck it in attached to something else. Why don’tcha check on that, Katie?

  6. How about a bill that would require accountability by our elected officials in Olympia including the governor…?

    That is, successive bad legislative decisions mean loss of seat going to the runner up and monetary fees and penalties would need to be paid by the ousted incumbent. Kind of a legislative 3 strikes and you’re out and have an independent agency…kind of a citizen’s watch dog audit and review board with teeth capable of enforcing laws that would oust elected officials through misconduct i.e. voting for special/self interests, wrong decision voting based on no facts or skewed facts, and indecisive or no action in bringing about positive change for state tax payers.

    A top down approach…that is, don’t look out for the public interests while working for the state as a legislator, governor, or state institution manager/director…or make too many bad/wrong decisions your both out and have to repay us, the tax payers.

    Let’s make this bill!

  7. I have not had a drink in over 15 years.
    Why? Because I found that I got sick and tired of
    being sick and tired.
    But when I did drink, I drank with others…
    ( Who wants to be known as a closet drunk?)

    What this meant, was drinking in public bars and private clubs,
    which meant I most likely was over the limit when I drove home..
    Bad on me… But, I never was pulled over, never had an accident,
    so I guess I was one of the lucky ones. ( As were the people on the road with me).

    But here is some food for thought..
    Most real partying takes place on Friday and Saturday nights, right??
    Well, almost..
    Take a gander at your local watering hole on Wednesday after say, 5-6pm…
    Notice anything?? That’s correct… The parking lot is usually full… Why you ask?? Because to chronic and social drinkers, Wednesday is “Victory Day”..
    The day that lands between the Sunday they had a couple to get over the hang over from Saturday night, the Monday that they took off from the bottle or beer to get things back to normal and get some good food into themselves.. To Tuesday, which was total heck and just required something, but the money was not there until payday… To our day called Victory Day.. The day drinkers use to get through to Friday….
    Increase the DUI patrols on Wednesdays, between 5-10pm… You get enough people arrested to take care of the state budget crisis…
    Trust me….. I used to be one…
    Have a day and watch out for those drunks..

  8. beerdrinkingdawg says:

    If penalties are made too harsh, then people will exercise their right not to blow, and that gets you nowhere.
    Aggressive enforcement and visibility is the key.

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