Two bills related to drunken driving set to be presented today

All first-time drunken-driving offenders must install an alcohol-detecting interlock device in their cars in order to can get their licenses back, under Washington State Auto law.

But, State Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, wants to change that laws, because offenders often drive illegally for months or even a year or more without a valid license or the device, and that goes into effect only when drunken-driving offenders reapply for licenses.

He has proposed a bill in the Legislature that would create a “provisional” license that would have the locks installed soon after someone is arrested.

Goodman says that while 25% of drunken drivers get their licenses suspended, 75 percent drive anyway and many never get caught.

This bill is modeled after a law in New Mexico. “We want to create this new driver’s license that allows them to drive only if you put an interlock on your car,” Goodman said.

The ignition-interlock bill is a major drunken-driving proposal before the Legislature this year. But it is not the only one. The other, which is more controversial, is a bill sponsored by Rep. Patricia Lantz, D-Gig Harbor, and endorsed by Gov. Christine Gregoire. It would authorize police to set up sobriety spot checks. This is a practice that hasn’t been seen in Washington since it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1988.

Both bills have the strong support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD). CEO of that organization, Chuck Hurley, was here in Washington State last week. He was rallying for tougher drunken-driving laws.

MADD has made tougher ignition-interlock laws its top priority, Hurley said. And regarding the sobriety checks, he said, “We’re not here to trash the Constitution, but we’re glad it’s getting a good, fair hearing.”

According to Hurley, there were 294 fatal Washington Auto accidents involving drunken drivers in 2006. He said that in New Mexico, when the new ignition-interlock law was put in place in 2005, fatalities dropped by 25 percent.

Washington is one of 39 states that require the ignition interlocks, Hurley said.

Under Goodman’s bill, drivers who plead guilty right away could get an interlock device and a provisional license the day after they are pulled over for drunken driving.

“You waive your right to a hearing by pleading guilty but save a lot of cost and time,” he said.

He also said the provisional license would be immediately identifiable to police because it will look different. Offenders would be charged approximately $20 a month to help pay for ignition devices for those who can’t afford them. Overall, the device would cost an offender about $60 a month.

If you are seriously injured in a Washington automobile accident, or someone you know is injured or possibly even killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver, call the personal injury attorneys at Bernard Law Group, 1-800-418-8282. We can help you immediately. All e-mail and form submissions will be responded to by a qualified and knowledgeable member of our firm within 24 hours. Call our toll-free number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we promise to respond immediately.