Sen. Roach: new anti-DUI law should make Washington roads safer

Pam Roach - Reporter file photo
Pam Roach
— image credit: Reporter file photo

For the Reporter

Sen. Pam Roach (R-rural Auburn), a longtime leader of the Legislature's efforts to discourage driving under the influence, was on hand this morning as the strongest anti-DUI legislation approved by state lawmakers in many years received Gov. Inslee's signature.

The ceremony took place in Pierce County, at the office of the Washington State Patrol's Tacoma-based district.

Roach said she supported the changes because they're geared more toward preventing repeat DUI offenses. She said the Legislature was spurred to action after five people were killed or seriously hurt in King County this spring; the drivers involved had pending DUI cases and didn't have alcohol-detecting ignition-interlocks on their vehicles.

"If you get arrested for DUI and already have a DUI conviction, then you deserve the extra attention this new law will provide," Roach said. "As someone who had a central role in the previous overhaul of our state DUI laws – it must have been 15 years ago – I can tell you these changes are long overdue. If it hadn't been for those two tragedies this year, though, the Legislature still might not have had the political will to address this."

The law created by Senator Bill 5912 will have officers automatically arrest people suspected of a second or more DUI within a 10-year period; those arrested will be required to have ignition-interlock devices installed as a condition of being released from custody. Also, drivers convicted of DUI while driving the wrong way or while children are passengers will face stiffer penalties.

Roach also noted that up to three counties and two cities will get to test a tool that has already been proven successful in other states: a 24/7 sobriety program that can allow offenders to avoid electronic home monitoring by requiring regular testing for alcohol consumption.

"If you think about how alcohol abuse can tear relationships apart and destroy lives, then the benefits of promoting sobriety should transcend traffic safety alone," Roach said.

Roach would have liked for the new law to put more of the financial cost associated with DUIs on the shoulders of those who have the means to pay. It's an idea she plans to pursue next year.

"The taxpayers weren't drunk behind the steering wheel, so they shouldn't be on the hook for expenses incurred by the criminal-justice system as it deals with an offender who is far from indigent," Roach said. "If there's a way to give the taxpayer a break in situations like that, I intend to find it."

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