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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

After Tragedies, Wrong-Way Drivers And Ignition Interlocks Get Focus In Olympia

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Recent tragedies in Seattle have triggered an emergency discussion of drunk driving laws. Governor Jay Inslee said Tuesday it’s not acceptable that it takes a fifth DUI in ten years before a driver is charged with a felony. But changing that policy would be costly.

Governor Inslee says he wants a “bigger, bolder” response to drunk driving after two high profile fatal crashes. Both involved alleged repeat drunk drivers. There was the north Seattle family run down crossing the street. And the longtime Eddie Bauer employee hit head-on by a wrong way driver on the approach to the 520 bridge.

At a meeting of the state’s Impaired Driving Working Group, Frank Blair – whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver - urged a lower threshold for felony DUI.

“They need to be taken out of society after they’ve been given every possible accommodation and opportunity to change their behavior and refuse to do so," Blair said, "Sorry. That’s just how I feel.”

But House Public Safety chair Roger Goodman cautioned the state would have to build a whole new prison to accommodate all the additional drunk driving convicts. Goodman is proposing additional penalties for wrong way drivers and mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices before a drunk driver’s vehicle is released from impound.

On the Web:

Drunk driving in Washington state - Washington Department of Licensing

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."