Washington is about to get tougher DUI laws.
Under a bill Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law Tuesday, the state will rely heavily on ignition interlock devices, which detect the alcohol in a driver’s breath, to crack down on drinking and driving.
“With this legislation we’ll get enough of these ignition interlock devices into the universe of drunk drivers’ cars to show that it is really one of the best options to reduce the carnage on our highways,” said Rep. Roger Goodman, the primary sponsor of House Bill 1789.
The bill, most of which goes into effect in September, requires more offenders to install ignition interlock devices in an effort to address the problem of pleading down. That happens when prosecutors agree to a reduced sentence for people who have been arrested for a DUI in order to avoid the expense of going to court.
In some cases, that can lead to a conviction for negligent driving, which doesn’t necessarily require that drivers install interlock devices.
Under the new law, all drivers who are convicted of either negligent driving in the first degree or reckless driving and have a DUI conviction within the last seven years will have to get a device.
It also increases a fee that people who are arrested for drunk driving have to pay and dedicates some of the money to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to pay for programs to prevent driving under the influence of alcohol.
Commission program manager Shelly Baldwin said she was glad that more money would go to prevention programs and ignition interlock devices in the state.
“This places us in the forefront of getting ignition interlock devices on as many vehicles as possible,” she said.
According to a February study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, re-arrest rates for drunk drivers decreased by about 67 percent for people who had interlock devices compared to people who just had their licenses suspended.