Thoughtful DUI Proposals

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Wedgwood on a Monday afternoon on a sunny day in front of a middle school. That’s where a man who blew a .22 blood alcohol level drove his car into a grandmother, grandfather, mother, and a 10-day-old infant. The grandparents were killed. Mother and child remain in Harborview in serious condition.

These details by themselves are a tragedy any way you slice it.  What makes this event even worse was that the driver of the car had had one DUI conviction and one pending charge in the months prior and had no valid license to drive.

Last week, City Councilmembers, the Mayor, and the City Attorney wrote a letter to Governor Inslee and the State Legislature asking them to take action before the end of session to strengthen sentencing, requirements for ignition interlock devices and making rules about prior DUI offenses stricter.

Governor Inslee, state reps and state senators have responded to the events of the last few weeks by putting together a set of changes to get much tougher on DUI offenders. There’s a great article in the Seattle Times about it here.

The package is comprehensive and builds on efforts earlier in the session to get smarter and tougher on repeat DUI offenders. Ideas include strengthening and lengthening drunk driving sentences, charging suspects more quickly, better follow-through on the installation of ignition interlock devices, and even banning third time offenders from buying alcohol for 10 years. These proposals have been brought cheers from some and concern from others due to the projected costs of incarceration and the decade long limit on buying alcohol.

I’d like to say I have compassion for people who struggle with alcohol addiction, but that’s not true every day. While alcohol abuse and addiction are public health problems, they are also public safety problems. Treatment on demand should be available any time, any place. In the meantime, we should do more to prevent ANY drinking and driving offenses.

The State Legislature has a week and a half to go before its slated close for 2013. That’s enough time to work through the good and the bad of the proposals rolled out yesterday.