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Tougher DUI restrictions go into effect

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in 2011 9,878 people were killed and approximately 315,00 were injured in a drunk-driving motor vehicle accident. Further, every 53 minutes someone is killed in a drunk-driving crash, while every 90 seconds someone is injured. In the State of Washington in 2001, there were 156 drunk-driving fatalities (.08 blood alcohol level), representing 34 percent of all traffic deaths (a 7.7 percent decrease from the year before). Looking at the larger picture, there were 3,713 alcohol-related crash injuries (.01 blood alcohol level or higher) and 7,403 alcohol-related crashes (.01 blood alcohol level or higher).

Given these rather daunting statistics, effective September 28, 2013, new laws affecting DUI offenders have gone into effect.

The primary focus of the new legislation is a new provision which requires that drivers charged with a second impaired driving offense (including DUI, physical control of a vehicle while under the influence, vehicular homicide and vehicular assault) to have an interlock device installed on their vehicles within five days of being charged, with proof of installation to be provided, or comply with 24/7 sobriety program monitoring, or both. “24/7 electronic alcohol/drug monitoring” is defined by the statute as the monitoring by the use of any electronic instrument that is capable of determining and monitoring the presence of alcohol or drugs in a person’s body and includes any associated equipment a participant needs in order for the device to properly perform. Monitoring may also include mandatory urine analysis tests as ordered by the court. Upon acquittal or dismissal of all pending or current charges relating to the second impaired driving offense, the court must authorize removal of the ignition interlock device and lift any requirement to comply with electronic alcohol/drug monitoring imposed.

The genesis of the new law was anger over a March accident in Seattle, where a suspected drunken driver crashed into a family crossing the street in the residential Seattle neighborhood of Wedgewood. That accident critically injured a 10-day-old child and his mother-and killed his grandparents.

Legislators complained that the final bill, as enacted, did not go as far as they wished, but took a great step forward. Indeed, the bill expressly states that Washington has one of the weakest driving under the influence felony laws (in noninjury cases), and establishes an impaired driving work group to study effective strategies to reduce vehicle-related deaths and serious injuries that are a result of impaired driving incidents in Washington state.