For years lawmakers have struggled with figuring out ways to deter people from drinking and driving. One way many believe to reduce the number of DWI drivers on the road is to increase penalties, especially for repeat offenders. Now, lawmakers in Washington State are looking at ways to do just that. Washington has some of the most lenient DUI laws in the country. Unfortunately, last year there were several high-profile DWI related fatal accidents including one that resulted in the death of a couple as well as critical injuries of a mother and baby. In response to this, Washington citizens are putting pressure on their government to strengthen DWI laws. Many changes have been proposed in an attempt to cut down on the number of people who operated vehicle while impaired.
One of the most popular new polices considered is increasing the penalties for repeat DUI offenders so that anyone with a fourth offense will be charged with a felony. Currently in the state a person arrested for DWI with four or more prior convictions will face felony charges. The proposed new law will make the felony charge come one offense sooner. Other ideas the use sobriety checkpoints and the following:
increase post-conviction supervision of repeat DUI offenders, expand communication efforts about alcohol-sensing and ignition-interlock requirements and to allow police to conduct blood-alcohol tests without a warrant if drivers consent.
Making changes to DUI law is a lot easier said than done. It requires a lot of funding which many believe the state does not currently have. In fact, some are arguing that this proposed law is simply a ploy by government officials to appear tough on DWI without actually making any changes. There are also fears that this law would lead to more offenders serving jail time causing overcrowding in the state prisons. Before anything is done, the biggest question should first be how much this law will affect the number of offenders on the roads.
New Hampshire laws are some of the toughest in the country. Currently it is a felony for any person to commit aggravated DWI in the state. Aggravated DWI involves driving while impaired plus an additional factor such as driving with a minor in the vehicle or speeding. Even a first-time offender can be charged with a felony in New Hampshire.
With this in mind and looking at 2011 drunk driving statistics from the Century Council, one can see that 34.1% of the total driving related fatalities involved an alcohol impaired driver in Washington state. That same year 30% of driving fatalities involved an alcohol impaired driver in New Hampshire. These numbers appear to be quite close to each other. It would be interesting to see, if this law is passed, how it will affect the overall DWI fatality rate. Likely, it would make a small overall impact. In order for Washington to significantly lower the number of DUI drivers on the road, they should probably make big changes and approve, not just one, but all of the proposed policies.