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Originally published April 23, 2013 at 4:55 PM | Page modified April 23, 2013 at 4:59 PM

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Editorial: Tighten DUI laws but don’t rush

The Legislature does not have time to rewrite the drunk-driving laws, but should begin work on a bill for next year.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Actually we need to hurriedly pass as many DUI laws as we can so everyone can find out... MORE
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THE deaths of Morgan Fick Williams and Dennis and Judy Schulte, all killed in the past month in Seattle by drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, underline the need to do more to protect people on the roads. However, it is too much to expect that the Legislature would finish work on an 80-page bill, introduced just last week, in a session that has less than a week to go.

The Legislature’s main job is to agree on a budget. On that question, the two chambers are more than $1 billion apart. They may need a special session, and even then the focus should be on the budget.

The committees that have jurisdiction over Gov. Jay Inslee’s DUI bill, offered as House Bill 2030 and Senate Bill 5912, should begin work. They contain some good ideas.

One is that if a car is ordered to have an ignition interlock that it be installed before the car is returned to the owner. Another is increased use of transdermal bracelets, which track and report an offender’s blood-alcohol levels.

There are some ideas that could be problematic and deserve a thorough airing.

One is to strip a third offender of the right to buy alcohol in Washington for 10 years. It sounds good, but it would require every buyer of a bottle or a drink to be carded every time, a huge effort that could easily be evaded.

More jail time also has a downside: building more prisons, which burns up public money.

The most efficient use of extra effort is to focus on severe and repeat offenders and impose penalties that change behavior.

One suggestion on this page recently was from KVI Radio’s John Carlson: that a drunken driver who has evaded an order for an ignition interlock or is driving without a valid license lose the car. Permanently.


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