OLYMPIA — Washington lawmakers advanced a plan Wednesday to more closely monitor motorists who repeatedly drive under the influence, but the Legislature backed away from a costly proposal that would have increased minimum jail times for such offenders.
Under the revised bill, drivers charged with a second impaired driving offense would face mandatory booking in jail and have an interlock device installed on their vehicles within five days of being charged. The state would also begin a pilot program in three counties and two states to conduct daily alcohol monitoring on a person convicted twice under the DUI law.
“We’re going to save lives,” said Democratic Rep. Roger Goodman, one of the lawmakers working on the measure.
Goodman said lawmakers have decided not to increase the mandatory minimum jail time for repeat offenders. Goodman said that proposal was expensive, although he says it may get more consideration in the future.
The Senate voted Wednesday evening to approve the plan by a 46-0 margin, while the House is expected to vote on the bill as early as Thursday.
The amended bill is the latest iteration in the debate over how to crack down on drunken driving. The legislation was sparked by some recent fatal accidents in the state, including a March case in which a suspected drunken driver crashed into a family crossing the street in a residential Seattle neighborhood. That accident critically injured a 10-day-old child and his mother and killed his grandparents.
Republican Sen. Don Benton called the bill one of the most important measures the Legislature will pass this year. He said it’s important for the state to hold people accountable for their own actions.
“If you drink and drive in this state, you are going to pay a heavy penalty for putting your fellow citizens and your family members at risk,” Benton said.
Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher said he was encouraged by the bill but also said he hoped lawmakers would return next year to talk more about what they can do to focus on treatment in order to prevent alcohol abuse from happening.