It may be shocking to hear that Washington State has one of the highest driving under the influence (DUI) fatality rates in the country. The Northwest seems so sparsely populated, laid back, liberal, and almost innocent in a way. But then you see the statistics: highest suicide rate, largest population of heroin addicts per capita, one of the largest domestic producers of meth amphetamine. This underbelly is enough to make you cringe.

This sad fact about DUI was revealed by the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in their annual report. MADD is a grassroots movement that has grown to influencing national policies on DUI. And why not? Nobody wants to disappoint their mother. But disappoint we have and they suggest in the report that we be sent to our legislative rooms to draft tougher laws against drunk driving.

Washington State DUI Fatalities

MADD says that in 2009 there were 206 DUI-related traffic deaths in Washington state. This comprises nearly 42% of traffic fatalities in the state for that year. Only Connecticut, Hawaii and South Carolina had higher death rates from DUI.

That year was also a busy year for Washington law enforcement across the state as police stopped nearly 20,000 3-time DUI offenders and over 2,100 5-time offenders. MADD has recommendations specifically for Washington state to help with this disturbing conclusion.

According to the report “Washington has the most comprehensive ignition interlock law in the nation but could take additional steps to help save more lives. The state needs a better child endangerment law, legalization of sobriety checkpoints and utilization of no-refusal activities to further crack down on drunk driving.”

5 Criteria to Curb Drunk Driving

MADD has five criteria with which to determine the effectiveness of any given state’s DUI policy. States are assessed, determined, and then given stars for each policy that they comply with. There are only 5 five-star states: Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, and Utah. Washington, even with our horrid fatality rate, still rates three stars.

Drunk driving criteria:

Requiring Ignition Interlocks for all Drunk Driving Offenders – MADD cites more than 15 peer-reviewed studies to back their recommendation for laws that require devices such as ignition interlocks (breathalyzers set in the steering wheel that require little to no alcohol be detected before the convicted DUI offender can start their car). The Centers for Disease Control recommended this year that every state pass an all-offender ignition interlock law. By implementing this law alone, New Mexico and Arizona have reduced DUI fatalities by 36 and 46 percent.

Conducting Sobriety Checkpoints – Many people in Washington State find the prospect of checkpoints unsavory, leaving sort of a Gestapo taste in the mouth. Opponents also cite the fact that traffic is bad enough without daunting line of cars waiting for the police to stumble upon a suspect. However, according to MADD, sobriety checkpoints are proven to reduce DUI fatalities by an average of 20% by acting as a general deterrent to drinking and driving. Though opponents also say that it is a wasted use of manpower, MADD says checkpoints are cost-effective, reducing drunk driving expenses by at least six dollars for every dollar invested.

Enhancing Penalties for DUI Child Endangerment – DUI child endangerment is an issue that actually hits the headlines often without the required horrific car accident that thrusts other DUIs into the local headlines. This is where an adult chooses to drive drunk with a child or children in the vehicle and you would be amazed at how often it happens. MADD says enhanced penalties, such as making the crime a felony, are important ways to make adults think twice before acting so irresponsibly. This may run into an issue with the state’s roll in custody and parenting rights.

Participating in No-refusal Events – Refusing to submit to Breathalyzer or bloods test (BAC testing) is a serious thing in Washington State, but according to MADD, not serious enough. By refusing to submit to BAC, the organization says it could present a significant challenge to law enforcement and the courts. MADD insists that “no-refusal weekends” are successful in reducing the number of offenders who refuse BAC testing. The only way a State can get a no-refusal star, even if they have a no-refusal plicy in place is if drivers stopped have a 10% or lower refusal instance.

Utilizing Administrative License Revocation – Administrative License Revocation (ALR) is standard punishment for drunk driving in Washington State through the immediate confiscation of the offender’s driver’s license by the arresting officer. MADD says that studies show that ALR reduces DUI fatalities by as much as 9%.

Seattle DUI Victims Lawyers

Okay, so Washington State, with its 3 stars, is somewhat middle of the road in the country when it comes to DUI convictions, but the state has been pretty good about releasing funds for DUI patrols at crucial times such as holidays and summer months. But many advocates say that the patrols are not effective if the penalties for DUI are not stringent enough to curb the behavior.

It seems that the large fines, possible jail time, mandatory impound, and public record are not enough to scare people into making better decisions, particularly young people. Some have suggested that there needs to be more education and a change in social perception of the severity of the act of drinking and driving. Until then, the victims, their families, and advocates continue to fight.

If you or a loved one are injured or killed in a DUI wreck, it is important that you find legal council as soon as possible to help you through the legal components of the tragedy. Call the DUI Victim’s Attorneys at Phillips Law Firm for a consultation on your legal rights.