Neighborly advice: Ranking 11 ways to curb drunken-driving deaths

Marc Lester

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage -- 

When a man ran down and killed two grandparents this year in North Seattle, seriously injuring their infant granddaughter, Washington state lawmakers dusted off that state’s drunken-driving laws. 

Were they tough enough? Was there room for improvement? 

The debate mirrored a conversation now underway in the Alaska, where police say drunken drivers killed five people in just two months earlier this year. Our Pacific Northwest neighbors might have a tip sheet for us.

On Monday a 33-person task force created by the Washington Legislature released report that ranks 11 different ideas for combating DUIs. Read it here. 

The group listed random sobriety checkpoints among the more promising tools. Like Alaska, Washington is one of 12 states that don’t use random checkpoints. The practice is considered effective by the Centers for Disease Control in reducing crashes but many drivers believe it violates their Constitutional rights. 

Another controversial idea – a version of which has already been tried in Alaska – would temporarily ban repeat offenders from buying alcohol. 

Here’s the list, with No. 1 considered the most effective and No. 11 the least effective by the group.

1. Increasing penalties for refusing to take a breath or blood test to see if the driver has been drinking or doing drugs.  

2. Increase mandatory minimum penalties and fines for repeat drunken-driving offenders.

3. Lower the number of times a driver can be convicted of drunken driving before they are hit with a felony charge. 

4. Create sobriety checkpoints.

5. Boost treatment and rehabilitation services for repeat offenders.

6. Increase the number of DUI courts and court-related services in the state.

7. Require mandatory arrests for first DUI offense. (Alaska already does this, with first-time offenders serving three days in jail.)

8. Encourage prosecutors to aggressively pursue DUI cases under existing drunken-driving laws.

9. Create state and local impaired driving enforcement task forces.

10. Promote and monitor the use of mandatory ignition interlocks.

11. Ban alcohol sales to repeat drunken-driving offenders. 

The Washington Legislature approved a DUI bill in June that included some of the above measures but omitted the decade-long ban on alcohol for repeat drunken drivers.