Lawmakers gave some teeth to the state’s DUI laws a couple weeks
ago, but nothing like a couple national groups want to do.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and an industry
coalition called the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety are
developing a DADSS — Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety.
Their goal is to equip every passenger vehicle in the country with
technology to disable the car if the driver is drunk.
Here in Washington, some drunken drivers can get their licenses
back if they install an ignition-locking device. Though you need to
blow a .08 blood alcohol level to get busted for DUI, a .025 will
keep the car from starting, said Washington State Patrol spokesman
Bob Calkins. Once the car is running, there’s a retest within the
first 10 minutes, and randomly after that.
For a first offense, you need to keep the interlock device at least
one year, at least five years for a second and at least 10 for
three or more DUIs.
Cops figure people need to get to work or take their kids to
school, even if they’ve been busted for DUI, so they’re better off
driving an interlock-equipped car than driving illegally and
Now, with a bill signed by Gov. Gregoire on March 29, the ignition
interlock device must come with a camera so the drunk can’t have
somebody else blowing into it. And the drunk must foot the bill for
the device, which can be a couple hundred bucks to install and
another $50 to $100 a month to rent.
The bill, which passed the House by a 98-0 vote and 49-0 in the
Authorizes police to administer breath or blood tests for felony
DUI arrests without the suspect’s consent.
Raises the amount of emergency response costs DUI offenders are
liable for from $1,000 to $2,500.
Requires plea agreements and sentences for felony DUI cases to be
kept as public records and prevents courts from vacating
convictions for felony DUI.
Authorizes courts to order offenders to submit to alcohol
Expands DUI laws to cover “huffing.”
I can’t disagree with any of this. If anything, it’s still not
stiff enough. I guess if you get drunk and go into the ditch, it’s
one thing while causing a wreck that gets somebody killed is
another. A lot what you run into is just luck and fate,
Suppose you do kill somebody. Another bill this year increased the
penalty for vehicular homicide from two to three years in prison to
six to eight years. It still doesn’t seem like much for taking a
Drunken drivers kill more people in Washington state than all other
criminals combined, if you count the drivers themselves. From 2000
to 2010, drunk drivers killed 2,042 people, according to the FBI’s
Uniform Crime Report. That’s more than the 2,028 people who were
the victims of an intentional killing during the same period.
The national groups mentioned earlier, which include most of the
world’s auto makers, have spent four years and $10 million
preparing to tackle drunk-driving deaths. They look at alcohol
detectors as standard safety equipment, and want to put them in
every car like airbags and seat belts. They’ve recently completed
the proof-of-concept phase and now are beginning two years
demonstrating alcohol detection systems. They could begin to be
installed in vehicles in eight to 10 years.
People will complain it’s more of the nanny state and Big
Brother taking over, but if they do it right, it’s OK by me.
Restaurant trade groups want to keep an increase from $10 million
to $24 million for the program out of the federal transportation
budget. They say DADSS supporters claim the alcohol detectors would
be set at .08 BAC, but due to legal, liability and logistical
concerns, they would have to be below the legal limit, most likely
around .03 to .04 percent.
Then there’s the problem of misreads. If the devices were
reliable 99.99966 percent of the time, that would still be more
than 4,000 misreadings a day, 4,000 sober people who couldn’t drive
their cars, according to Sarah Longwell, managing director of the
American Beverage Institute.