Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday will sign a bill that cracks down on repeat drunken drivers.
Among those expected to attend the ceremony in Tacoma will be families of those killed or critically injured by drunken drivers, including Frank Blair, father of 24-year-old Sheena Blair. The Tacoma woman was killed in 2010 when a wrong-way driver struck the car she was riding in.
The bill requires that drivers suspected of being under the influence be arrested and charged quickly, rather than allowing months for charges to be brought.
It also lengthens drunken-driving sentences and guarantees that repeat offenders will have previous incidents count against them when they are sentenced for DUI. In addition, the state Department of Corrections must supervise those convicted of vehicular manslaughter or felony DUI.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said the legislation sends a strong message about the seriousness of getting behind the wheel when intoxicated and hopefully will cut down on DUI-related wrecks.
“It increases consequences for repeat drunken drivers, who are the most dangerous drivers on the road,” he said. “And it sends a strong message that we take drunken driving seriously in Washington.”
Drunken driving incidents are down nationwide, and Pierce County’s numbers have been declining for nearly a decade. From 2005 to 2009, the county averaged 27 DUI-related deaths each year, Lindquist said. In 2010 and 2011, the average dropped to 17 per year.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
The bill, which includes funding for deputy prosecutors who will be tasked with more DUI cases, could also mean a new deputy prosecutor for Pierce County.
More than a dozen lawmakers and law enforcement leaders will attend the bill signing at a Washington State Patrol office in Tacoma.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653 stacia.glenn@ thenewstribune.com