Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law on Thursday that imposes stricter restrictions on drunk drivers, and said he hopes to strengthen the law even further next year.
Under the new law, repeat offenders will be booked into jail on their second offense. They must install an interlock ignition device on their car within five days of their release, and some will be required to participate in an electronic alcohol monitoring program.
“Today we refuse to be helpless victims of impaired drivers,” Inslee said.
A half dozen legislators and the family of victims of drunken drivers attended the bill signing ceremony in Tacoma, including Dan Schulte. Both of his parents were killed when they were struck by a drunk driver in March, and his wife and 10-day-old son were critically injured in the same Seattle accident.
Schulte said the accident was “very fresh” and it was hard for him to attend the ceremony. He said he believes the law should go even further by lengthening minimum jail sentences and making it a felony crime earlier in the process. Currently, it takes five convictions before a DUI is a felony crime.
“It takes way too many offenses in my opinion,” Schulte said.
During legislative hearings on the issue, lawmakers discussed reducing the number of convictions required to make a DUI a felony, but it proved to be too costly.
Inslee said after the ceremony that he hopes to find a way to finance it next year.
“There are more steps to take,” Inslee said.
The DUI bill was introduced during regular session following the Schulte accident and another tragic incident. It was approved unanimously by both the House and Senate in the final days of the second special session.
Frank Blair, whose daughter Sheena was killed by a drunk driver 2010, said he grew “disheartened” when the bill seemed to languish during the long legislative session, but he was pleased with the final product.
His voice breaking with emotion, he said the law “sends a message to us families who have sacrificed at the hands of these irresponsible, reckless people.”
TVW taped the bill signing ceremony and speeches at a Washington State Patrol office in Tacoma — watch it below.