For the past three decades or so, reducing drunken driving has been a priority in society. It’s worked.
Drunken driving deaths have declined about 35 percent nationwide over the past two decades. Punishment for drunken drivers has gradually increased and with it a social stigma has grown.
Yet, there are still far too many deaths caused by drunken drivers. The number of drunken-driving fatalities in Washington state in 2011 was 156.
Each death is a tragedy. Getting drunken drivers off the road has to be an even higher priority.
The state Legislature this year took aggressive action aimed at repeat offenders. The changes in the law include making sentences for drunken driving longer.
The new law requires arrest for drivers suspected of being under the influence and mandates the suspect be charged quickly. To this point, cases have been allowed to linger for months.
And not only are sentences longer for offenders, repeat offenders will have previous incidents count against them when they are sentenced for DUI. The state Department of Corrections must supervise those convicted of vehicular manslaughter or felony DUI.
“It increases consequences for repeat drunken drivers, who are the most dangerous drivers on the road,” said Mark Lindquist, Pierce County prosecutor. “And it sends a strong message that we take drunken driving seriously in Washington.”
Sadly, even making the law tougher will not end drunken driving.
But the changes should be enough to keep some who are impaired from getting behind the wheel. Lives will be saved as a result.
The steps taken by lawmakers to reduce drunken driving are reasonable, prudent and welcome.