Bob Ferguson

[Update 2:50pm] For those interested in details about traffic safety in Washington State check out WSDOT Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Of traffic fatalities from 2006-2008 in the state 13% involved impairment only, 8% involved impairment and speeding, 10% involved impairment and run-off-road, and 17% involved all three factors.  Of all fatalities, 48% of involved impairment as a contributing factor (see page 15,20 of report).

We don’t often dive into issue related to the Attorney General  but today’s press release from Attorney General Candidate Bob Ferguson piqued my interest. Ferguson, who is currently on the King County Council, and is running against Reagan Dunn, who is also on the Council and voted against the Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC), is calling for tougher penalties and treatment of DUI offenders, backing up his proposal with some shocking statistics.

SEATTLE, WA – Candidate for Attorney General and Chair of the King County Law and Justice Committee Bob Ferguson today announced a plan to Protect Washington Families on our Roads. The plan calls for new laws to hold Washington’s most dangerous DUI offenders accountable.

“Washington currently has a higher percentage of DUI-related deaths than 43 other states,” said Ferguson. “As Attorney General, I will fight to make our roads safer and protect families traveling on our roads. The time has come to take a tougher approach.”

In the past five years, nearly 2,000 people have been killed as the result of drunk drivers on Washington State roads. Among the 50 states, Washington ranks number 7 in the highest percentage of DUI-related deaths.

Read the rest of the press release below the jump.

Ferguson’s proposal will:

1)    Increase the sanctions for DUI offenders who injure or kill others;

2)    Increase the sanctions for repeat DUI offenders;

3)    Increase the sanctions for offenders who put children at risk;

4)    Enforce zero tolerance for driving under the influence of PCP, meth, cocaine, and ecstasy; and

5)    Treat those with drug and alcohol dependency.

Ferguson’s proposal calls for doubling the penalties for Vehicular Assault (DUI) and Vehicular Homicide (DUI). He proposes doubling the jail time for anyone convicted of driving under the influence with a child in the car. He proposes joining states that make the third DUI received in the span of ten years a felony. Ferguson also proposes joining the 15 states that make it an automatic, or per se, DUI offense for driving under the influence of any amount of PCP, methamphetamine, cocaine, or ecstasy.

Ferguson, a strong supporter of local funding for mental health and chemical dependency services in King County, also calls for enhanced drug and alcohol treatment options for DUI offenders to reduce DUI recidivism.

Ferguson’s plan has been endorsed by Island County Prosecutor, Greg Banks.  “I strongly support the 3 strikes model for DUI convictions.  Allowing someone to rack up 5 DUIs before a serious penalty is imposed is just playing Russian roulette with the lives of anyone who drives, walks, or bikes on our roads,” said Prosecutor Banks. “Likewise, those who drive drunk with children should receive enhanced sentences, and I support increased treatment opportunities for substance abusers.”

Ferguson noted the good work being done around the state by prosecutors, legislators, Washington State Patrol Troopers, and local law enforcement on this issue.

“Our law enforcement community has done an admirable job enforcing the laws on the books,” said Ferguson. “It’s time to help them out by strengthening our laws, and let those who would drive drunk know there will be serious consequences.”

Bob Ferguson’s entire plan can be read online here.

88 Replies to “AG Candidate Ferguson: Tougher DUI Laws Needed”

  1. a) Great post! I like the idea of getting ruthless on DUIs.

    b) I fully expect you guys to endorse Ferguson over Dunn since the latter pulled quite the “Quiet Act” Filibuster last year on the CRC… but I’ll vote Dunn no matter what. Too many of us in the 38 “other counties” remember how Dunn stood up to Dean Logan, but that’s unrelated to transit.

  2. What is the “CRC?” Down in Portland / Vancouver, WA “CRC” is always tossed around to mean “Columbia River Crossing.” I doubt the KingCo Council voted on that. What is “CRC” in this context? Thx

    1. “Congestion Reduction Charge,” aka a stop-gap vehicle license fee to avoid the doomsday scenario of Metro cutting 600,000 hours of bus service.

  3. High DUI deaths can mean that our penalties aren’t high enough. They can also mean a dozen other things, such as a weak educational component.

    What are our current penalties? How do they compare to other states?

    Here’s a bit from his page:
    Currently, vehicular assalt while intoxicated will get you 3 to 9 months in jail.
    Currently, vehicular homicide while intoxicated will get you 31 to 41 months in jail.

    Those aren’t small punishments. Yes, it’s really tough to decide the punishment of someone who recklessly kills someone else. But do we really believe there’s someone out there that thinks “I’ll have one more drink – if I kill someone I’ll only be in jail for three and a half years.”

    It’s easy to ramp up punishments in the hope that they change behavior. But in general they don’t. It’s just a politician’s trick to claim they’re helping, rather than doing the hard work of really solving the problem.

    1. I’ll give you one big reason that we have so many DUI deaths: inadequate public transportation between 12 and 4am.

      It royally sucks that at last call I have to book it to downtown from Capitol Hill if I want any hope of making it home to Ballard before 4:00.

      1. Absolutely. I have friends that rave about living in Redmond – they find it very easy to hop on the bus and spend a lot of time downtown. The only time they drive is when they plan to go to the bars with friends, since bus service sucks late at night.

        Of course they claim to always have a designated driver, but what kind of backward incentive is that? The only time they drive is to drink? Crazy.

      2. Why don’t you go home earlier? Or drink at home?

        I don’t understand why our public transportation service should be organized around optional drinking trips. If you can’t behave responsibly when you are drunk and plan to organize how you get home without blaming the public transit system you should take a look at yourself in the mirror and ask whether you really ought to be drinking.

      3. @andrew, our public transportation should be organized around any purpose that the public wants whether it is a public sporting event, a night at the opera, a late night bar crawl or just getting to/from your graveyard shift job for which they say about 1/4 of Washington workers work either an evening or late night shift.

        If you have any reasonable expectation that people will forgo the use of automobiles, then our public transportation system has to work for many more use cases than 9-5 downtown jobs.

      4. Chicago’s Red line has drunk rush-hour at late hours on fridays and saturdays, where the train is JAMMED standing room only full of people going to and from bars from like 10 PM to 2 AM. It’s not even inefficient to serve these kind of trips, so it absolutely should be part of our transit system.

      5. I remember Chicago bars being open until 4am. The number of people in Seattle bars at 2am is a tiny fraction of the number of employees in the Seattle metro area. The idea that there would be a 1-3am peak is absurd. Why do transit advocates keep grasping at straws? If you can afford the bar tab you can afford to get your ass home without a huge public subside. But, you don’t even have to:

        Anna’s Ride Home.

        This really should be added to the “best references” links since it’s such a big deal for transit advocates that can’t seem to remember it at closing.

      6. A system like Anna’s ride home doesn’t scale. It only seems to work today because the number of users is small enough so the cost isn’t too bad. If a non-trivial number of people ever decided to use it, it would quickly become cost-prohibitive. If we want to serve more than a tiny number of people, transit becomes far cheaper than subsidized cab rides.

      7. If money were no object, sure. But it obviously is, and driving drunks home isn’t better than driving people to their jobs, whether they are graveyard or 9-5

      8. “Why don’t you go home earlier? Or drink at home?”

        Have you read the book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”? If not I highly recommend it:

        We WANT people to go out in public to socialize. Or to go over to a friends to socialize (still need a ride home). People are going to drink, it’s much better for the person AND SOCIETY for them to do it together. People who are more likely to meet friends at a bar are more likely to vote, attend a community meeting, give blood, donate to charity, run for office, work for a campaign, write letters to the editor, attend a club meeting and a whole host of other positive social acts.

        We WANT those things to increase. One of the ways to do it is to provide transit during ALL HOURS of the day and night so that people can get to those meetings and social events. It’s not just drunks who need to get home at night but EVERYONE.

        In fact I would say that to me at least getting people to and from NON-work related events is much more important than commuter trips. Now politically, that’s another issue, but when I rank the importance of a trip, commuting is at the bottom.

      9. sure we want people to socialize. You can as drunk as you like before midnight when the last bus comes. Why should we run peak service later than that?

      10. In addition to what Anc said — which I 100% agree with — the reason that driving drunks home is worthwhile is that it saves lives.

        Public health is not about what anybody deserves. Late-night transit is an exceptionally effective way to save lives. That’s all the justification we need.

      11. I think a more effective way may be to increase punishments for drunk driving, for example, taking away drivers lisences or sending people to jail.

      12. “Why don’t you go home earlier? Or drink at home?” Ugh. This is an argument that shows you don’t understand people. Why don’t people go home earlier or drink at home? Because that’s not fun. And some people don’t have a home big enough for entertaining (and that’s a good thing). And to separate drunk people from the general population. And because people work during the day. And because stores to get other tasks done in life are open during the day. And if you’re seriously suggesting that bars be replaced by living rooms, then friends still need to get to these living rooms. Or are you suggesting we should all drink alone at home? Jesus your world sounds depressing.

        A bar is a “third place” – a property where you can interact with people you know and meet new people. There are very few places like this left in our society. Coffee shops aren’t what they used to be – everyone keeps to themselves. Churches are dead. That leaves bars.

      13. [Andrew] We do both of those things, right now. First offense is a minimum of 90 days without a license. Please tell us why spending the massive amount of resources to send someone to jail is a “more effective way” than adding transit. Do you have any data for this?

      14. We do both of those things, right now. First offense is a minimum of 90 days without a license

        I’ve known many people who have been pulled over for drunk driving who plead down to “reckless” (or something) and received no jail time and 90 days without a license. That is not enough of a deterrent.

        Please tell us why spending the massive amount of resources to send someone to jail is a “more effective way” than adding transit. Do you have any data for this?

        You have no data for your argument either, why am I forced to provide data for mine?

        Logically, it’s completely sound. Jail time as a deterrent obviously keeps many people from committing crimes in the first place. If you worsen the penalties, you increase the deterrent. The threat of jail time will decrease the incidents of the crime. Of course, you have to back up those threats with actions (that’s what we call signal theory) sometimes, but not all the time.

        Whether the “sometime” is cheaper than more bus service, I don’t know. But you don’t either, so don’t pretend.

      15. How exactly does increasing penalties increase prosecution? If potential penalties were increased, exactly how would that decrease judges letting someone off with a lesser sentence?

        And an important point: why do you think you know more than judges about the cases that have come before them? They have the ability to give someone up to 90 days in prison and take their licenses for 4 years already – just from a DUI. If they’re letting people off with a lesser sentence perhaps there are details of the case that warrant it.

      16. I am not an expert on actual court processes, but I think pleas are usually the prosecutor’s discretion. The AG has wide powers and influence over prosecutors, so electing an AG who, say, opened up personal use of marijuana and made stiffer penalties for drink driving might save money and lives (win win?, right?). Of course, judges could decide that all laws are unconstitutional and prisons should be abolished if they wanted to, that’s one defect in our democracy, in my opinion.

      17. If your favorite band is playing and they’re top on the ticket, they’re probably not going to start playing until after midnight. So you either leave the show early and miss half your band or all of it, or you get out at 2am when there are very few buses.

      18. Andrew, you don’t need to be Liberal to see that punishment is not THE solution, just Rational.

        Think about it. What is the harshest punishment available in the US? Death. And yet in the states with the Death Penalty, there are still Capital Crimes. In fact the evidence shows that there is little to no deterrence effect.

        Now that’s not to say that we don’t need to increase our punishments. Just that this is an emotional based judgement not a rational one.

        To use some examples that come up more often on this blog, think about speeding and pedestrian/bicycle deaths.

        Does increasing enforcement lower speeds? No not really. We don’t have enough cops or cameras to do this. Instead it is proven that the most effective way to lower speeds is to make structural changes to the roadway.

        Same goes for bike and ped deaths. Do I FEEL the punishment should be higher for these crimes, yes I do, but I have yet to see any evidence that it will lower the rates. On the otherhand there is plenty of evidence that again, making structural changes and infastructure investments CAN lower fatalities.

        The same is true with DWIs. Look at the example someone else gave comparing DWI rates in King County v NYC. B/c NYC has made the land use and transit investments that allow people to easily get around intoxicated WITHOUT having to drive, their rates are much lower.

      19. Here’s a good story NPR did a while back on the effect of Mandatory Sentencing and Three Strikes laws in California:

        The facts are clear. While harsher punishments do make victims feel better, and do enrich the prison guard unions and prison industry, they don’t stop in the crime, and in fact may even make it worse. Not to mention they bankrupt the state.

      20. The reason we WANT people to travel everywhere they want to go, whenever they want to, is that it improves the commerce of the city. Even if they’re not spending money during every trip, they’re spending it enough of the time, and the non-monetary benefits of a healthier population and cultural events also add up. Chicago has buses every 10-15 minutes, a half mile apart, and half-hourly night owls two miles apart. That enables people to do more of their daily business without driving. It’s what every city should have. The reason Seattle has such a strong car culture is that the buses are infrequent; people don’t trust they’ll be there when they need them.

      21. The drugs war is most of those prison sentances, which massively skews the data. 2/3s of people are in prison are there on drugs charges.

      22. Regardless, the fact that upping penalties alone will NOT solve the crime problem is patently obvious. See my reasoning above.

      23. You are generalizing from a few papers a point which is nit as strong as what you are saying. There is proof, for example, that three strikes you’re out laws (which I don’t defend) do keep peeople from committing that thrird violent crime. If your model was “patently obvious” (or even correct!!) that would be impossible.

        In this case your argument is extraordinarily weak. You say when consequences appeared (the ones you described), you stopped drunk driving. In that case, the consequences were a deterrent. The fact that the consequences didn’t exist before you were special ops (or whatever, it’s different for everyone), shows we need stronger consequences, because you shouldn’t have to be special ops to need a deterrent to drunk driving.

      24. Negative Ghostrider, re read my posts.

        I’ve agreed that there might be some deterrent effect. Just that it alone will come nowhere near to solving the problem (else there would be no third strikes in places with 3 strike laws, nor capital crimes in places with the Death Penalty). As the rates between places with and with such laws are nearly identical the facts are patently obvious to one without an emotional blindness to the issue.

      25. I’ve got a clear, logical argument, Matt, yours seems emotional. No one is advocating for the death penalty for drunk drivers…

      26. Okay. Let me try again.

        You think harsher punishments can solve the Drunk Driving problem.

        What is the harshest punishment available in the US for any crime?


        So when it comes to solving capital crimes, we’ve ramped up the punishment as far as it can go.

        Has this lowered the rate of capital crimes? Most studies say no, the few that say there is possibility it has had an effect find that it is extremely small.

        Now, if maxing out the punishment side can’t solve the problem with capital crimes, why do you think bumping it up with Drunk Driving will solve the problem of drunk driving?

        I am arguing that structural changes and not punishment are the most effective means of lowering the rates of drunk driving. Are the penalties in NYC 4x as harsh as the penalties in Seattle? Then why are their Drunk Driving rates 1/4th of ours? Could it be that their land use and transportation system allow for people to get around intoxicated without driving? Is that really that hard to see and accept?

        Look at issues we have discussed here when it comes to speeding. What’s the best way to to decrease speeding? Is it to up enforcement or is it to make structural changes to the roadway? Why can you accept this but not that the same applies to drunk driving?

        Same goes for bike and ped accidents. It’s well known that making structural changes are the best ways to lower rates of such accidents. Why can you accept this but not that the same applies to drunk driving?

        As to your rational argument, where is it? Do you have any evidence that punishment and structural changes is the most effective means? Studies that show that when a state raised the penalty for drunk driving there was a significant drop in the rates of occurrence other factors aside?

      27. This is the biggest problem with your argument about prison sentences: there is evidence that says making prison sentences longer has little effect on rates for those crimes. However, drunk driving currently rarely has any prison sentence. There’s ample evidence that attaching a prison sentence to an act is an effective deterrent.

        The NYC argument is a complete straw man, because, they actually are much stricter there:
        So that proves nothing.

        Bike and ped things are different because we’ve created a system that’s unsafe for bikes and peds. We haven’t made a system that’s unsafe for drunk people, they make it unsafe for the rest of us.

        You can’t hold me to a burden of proof you are unwilling or unable to meet. I don’t claim punishment is the most effective means. I do believe it is a means. You said yourself deterrents work.

      28. I’m looking at your links and Jail times are the same, NY has lower fines, and under .15 NY has 180 day license suspension compared to 90 for WA. However for .15 NY has a lower suspension at still 180 whereas WA bumps it up to one year. NY also has no mandatory ignition interlock system.

        Doesn’t look like their law are 4x as harsh as ours. So what do you think accounts for the 1/4 rate of Drunk Driving?

      29. The laws don’t have to be 4 times as strict to have a 4 times effect. I tire of this. Here’s all I have to say about the matter:

        1) I believe drunk driving is bad and should be lessened (this is an emotional argument, I admit).
        2) I believe that deterrents can be effective. You said this yourself that when consequences for drunk driving increased for you personal, you stopped doing it.
        3) I am believe consequences to be both more likely and more realistic than turn the entire country into NYC (or whatever). I don’t argue that we’d have very low dui rates if the government provided door-to-door chauffeured service for all trips where someone is or might get drunk, so certainly it’s a problem that can be solved with structure, I’m just not sure it’s likely.
        4) I am open to a conversation about which deterrents. I’d be happy if we simply started from much longer duration of suspended licenses and went to jail time only on repeat offenders. Jail time might not be a deterrent for them, but at least it’d keep the off the roads!
        5) Maybe google cars will solve this once and for all!

    2. The Century Council (distilled spirits industry group) has some good research here – The “Stopping Hardcore Drunk Driving: Offenders’ Perspective on Deterrence” report says early intervention is the best time to get hardcore drinkers off the road. From the report, “Eight in ten offenders believe more severe sanctions for their first DUI conviction would have prevented subsequent drunk driving arrests and convictions.”

      1. From that site, of fatal injuries where the driver had high blood alcohol, 94% had no prior DWI convictions. (PDF here) So we’re talking about only 6% that would have had the chance to go through the increased punishments – and maybe, just maybe change their behavior.

        Also from that site, WA dropped 21.4% in alcohol-impared driving fatalities between ’98 and ’09, and under-21 impared driving dropped 24% in that same time period.

        We may not be doing as well as other states, but what has changed that indicates stronger penalties are needed?

        The only data that might convince me would be a documented correlation between increased penalties and reduced crime rates (specifically DUI, for this discussion). We’ve never seen that data because other than extreme cases it probably doesn’t exist.

      2. @Matt

        From my understanding the proposed changes would advance the point at which felony changes are brought, from a persons 5(OMFG!) to 3rd.

      3. Yes. And that’s what it says above. And that’s the most paletable proposal I see in his plan.

        What he doesn’t mention is what happens in those 5 offenses. Felony just means jail time, but I’m sure there are punishments at every offense. At what point does your license get taken away?

      4. A few facts:
        DUI level for under 21 here is .02.
        Your license is suspended on your first DUI, and lasts from 90 days to 4 years.
        A DUI is a felony if you’re under 21.
        A DUI is a gross misdemeanor, which means a fine of less than $1000 and jail time of less than 90 days. I suppose the exact punishment depends on the judge.

      5. [phil] You’re right. What a strange graph. It would be much more interesting as the number compared to alcohol-related deaths.

      6. “Felony just means jail time,”

        It also means you can’t vote, although I think Washington is one of the states that restores it when your sentence is finished. It also means other countries won’t let you visit them. And some employers won’t hire ex-felons. So it’s more than just jail time.

      7. First off, let me be clear, I have never been a big drunk driver. Have I done it before, yes, especially when I was young (growing up where I did, going out to someone’s farm and drinking around a bonfire was the only way to do it) but it was not habitual. As an adult I have probably done it a time or two when I was on the edge, never displaying physical impairment drunk but I wouldn’t doubt it if you told me that a couple times I drove in the .08-.1 range.

        That said, when when I changed jobs and getting a DUI meant loss of security clearance, getting kicked out of Special Operations, and getting sent back to the Infantry, I NEVER DID IT AGAIN. If I thought I was even CLOSE to the line I found another way.

        So, maybe I’m just a more rational person than most, but when the consequences rose so did my efforts at prevention.

      8. Matt, You can’t simultaneously argue that consequences == deterrent and that there’s no effective deterrent.

        Take aware their right to drive forever? I dunno.

    3. I completely agree this needs to be part of a broader set of changes but I think by far our laws are too lax on drunk drivers. Driving drunk is essentially the single most destructive thing an ordinary person can do, next to shooting at gun at people.

      I would like to know in which cases the sentences above are actually applied. I would be willing to be not too much or else we would have a lot more people in jail.

      1. How would doubling the penalty increase the number of convictions? I’d think the other would be true – a DA looking at 7 years for some careless 23 year old would have more of an incentive not to end this guy’s entire 20’s and plea bargin out. The same goes for juries.

      2. I’m with Adam, our laws are much too lax. The first offense should be five years and it should be 10 years for each after that.

        It’s so dangerous having drunk people driving, and I’ve known many people who were pulled over for it and plead down to “reckless driving” or something that is just a fine.

      3. One problem with stronger laws: the people who enforce drunk driving laws (i.e. the police) often have drinking problems. Officers don’t sympathize with petty thieves. But they do with drunk drivers. Making the punishment harsher may just make it easier for police to feel their ruining lives by enforcing the laws.

      4. @Andrew. You would seriously lock people like Anc up for 5 years for driving at .1? That absolutely would hurt society (we all lose 5 years of anc’s productive life, and likely much more). The money we would waste on prisons would be much better spent on transit.

      5. Sending people to prison is pretty much never the answer. It’s not an effective deterrent or punishment, and it has negative value as rehabilitation.

        IMHO, the only people we should ever send to prison are violent offenders for whom the risk of reoffending is so high that we just can’t allow them to participate in normal society.

        For everyone else — especially for nonviolent crimes, but also for situations with limited malicious intent — it would be much better to focus on rehabilitation, and (where appropriate) taking away the means of offense.

        For drunk driving, I would like to see something like the following:

        – License suspensions: first offense 1 year, second offense 5 years, third offense for life.
        – Impounding of the vehicle that the person was driving, as well as any other vehicles registered in their name or at their address
        – Mandatory breathalyzer installation in any car under their name for 5 years after they get their license/car back
        – Mandatory participation in alcohol rehab
        – Support program designed to help them build a car-free life, including things like transit passes, bicycling lessons, a guaranteed ride to work (even if it means a state-provided taxi to the nearest P&R), referrals for car services, and/or assistance with moving to a more transit-friendly location (e.g. expedited approval for affordable housing)
        – A percentage surcharge on their paycheck to cover the costs of the above programs, until they are no longer under the supervision of the state.

        Unlike prison, which takes people’s lives away, this program would help people build lives that don’t involve drunk driving. And it would be way, way cheaper. Prison costs something like $100/day, plus the opportunity cost of the fact that the prisoners have lost their jobs. Under this program, not only would the costs be lower, but thanks to the tax, it would pay for itself.

      6. Yes I would in a heartbeat put ‘anc’ in jail for a .1. A guy with a .1 killed my father and my grandfather. They cost a lot more than 5 years of someone’s life. My mother went on welfare, we lost our house, we lost our money, we lost everything. The guy said he thought he was fine, and was on his way home from a christmas party.

        The guy spent a year and a half years in jail. Three years afterwards we were still collecting food stamps and getting our christmas presents from the salvation army. Decades later our whole family still feels the impact.

        If anc is old enough to drive and to drink, he’s old enough to take responsibility for himself.

      7. @Aleks

        Prison is an effective deterrent for many crimes. If it would take someone’s life away, I promise they would think twice about drinking and driving (which also takes lives away).

      8. [Andrew] I’m sorry to hear about that. If we’re talking about what drunk drivers deserve, eye-for-an-eye punishments can be most satisfying. But I prefer to focus on what’s best for society.

      9. I believe you’ve failed to make the case that moving bus service from commute times to late at night is what’s best for society, if for no reason that you have not shown it to be either

        a) a more effective deterrent
        b) a cheaper deterrent

        I’m not talking about punishments, I’m talking about deterrents. I strongly disagree that the threat of jail time isn’t a deterrent, if that’s what you’re implying. I’m not a liberal, so you’ll never convince me of things like that

      10. Andrew,

        First of all, it’s discouraging to hear you dismiss an idea simply because “you’re not a liberal”. If you believe that punishment and deterrence should be the hallmarks of our criminal code, that’s fine (though I disagree). But rejecting an idea because of an adjective that *might* be used to describe it is a terrible way to form an opinion. How would you feel if you were trying to convince someone to support transit, and they said “don’t bother, I’m not a liberal”?

        Second, and more to the point, I’d like to see evidence supporting your claim that prison is an effective deterrent. The first hit on Google is a study stating that prison increases recidivism, for example. Can you show me a comparison between US states, or between countries, or in one state/country across time, showing that longer sentences led to fewer crimes?

        Locking people up is expensive, and increases the risk that they will commit crimes in the future. Maybe you’re okay with that. But I think it’s a mistake to ignore those facts simply because of a devotion to some political philosophy. You don’t have to be a hippy-dippy progressive to have an open mind.

      11. Oh come on, Aleks, no one who founds a transit blog dismisses anything just because “librulz” like it. I don’t think that all crimes are created equally, but violent crimes are a special case. Those need strong deterrents, and from my experience, drink driving is a violent crime.

        I won’t follow you down the other paths just because it’s certainly off-topic, but I have had the “I’m a conservative, so I hate transit” conversation a thousand times. I usually do a decent job. I’m not a conservative either, and I assure you I have a very open mind. That doesn’t mean that drunk driving should be legal or something.

        I’m surprised you need evidence supporting prison being a deterrent. Think of anything that’s illegal and the difference if it were legal. You have to accept that at very least some of that difference is because of prison time? If punishment weren’t a deterrent wouldn’t the south have kept their slaves and laughed about the 13th amendment? Or how about drugs laws. If drugs were illegal but not enforced, wouldn’t you see large scale, open marijuana production? I do think we have too many people in jail, and I do think our whole prison system is a shame, but I think there’s good reason to lock away dangerous people. And those who drive drunk are dangerous.

    4. Matt, you’ve confused things in linking to that, the conclusions you draw are vastly over done. First, the major of prison sentances are drugs charges, which means three strikes you’re out is most applicable to violent crime. Second, I’m not even going to bother with an argument that doesn’t start from the first principle that making an act a crime doesn’t reduce the instance of it. That much has to be obvious, even to you.

  4. Adding to the prison population isn’t going to fix the DUI deaths, nor is it going to work well in an era of reduced tax revenue except to expand the prison population.

    Alcoholism is a disease. Yes you should lose your right to drive a car, but does jail really prevent DUI’s?

    High DUI’s can also mean a failure of our mental illness care as more people turn to self medication to treat themselves.

    I’d rather see more enforcement for people failing to yield to pedestrians while driving. We kill a lot of people this way and no alcohol is involved.

    1. More than 2,000 pedestrian in the last 5 years were killed by drivers failing to yield?!?

      More to the point. If you actually look at injuries/fatalities in the transportation system a huge chunk of them are alcohol related. See new link about. A total of 43%.

    2. I agree. There are way to many drivers out there who are just plain inattentive. It’s like the “media myth” got a hold of the drunk driving rage, and is capitalizing upon it.

      If this is about safety first, we need to concentrate on where resources are best spent. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be consequences for driving drunk either.

  5. Use the Scandinavian model in treating DUI. No mercy. You blow it – big time consequences. Too bad if you HAVE to drive to work. Touch luck.

    1. How about we implement the Scandinavian model in transit first. Then the number of drunk drivers will go down of its own accord.

      1. Ideally both. But what are the odds we will implement Scandinavian transportation. Or health care, for that matter. Good luck on any of it.

  6. This is a rough one. Am under considerable family pressure to swear to kill anybody who gets drunk and kills or injures anybody close to me. Problem is that like enormous majority of the US population, have no training or experience that would give me a snowball’s chance of success, let alone getting away with it.

    (Another “The 99 Percent” definition: the percentage of the eligible sector of our people who have never done any military service. Sound right)?

    For the harm done by this offense, nothing either Bob Ferguson or Reagan Dunn can do is bad enough. Also, forty years of the “War on Drugs” disinclines me to vote for anybody who uses prison time as a campaign promise.

    “Avgeek”, tempted to say I’ll vote for Bob in thanks for his transit vote, but think I’ll just redouble my efforts to keep Rob McKenna in his present office, where I think he’s doing a better job than either contender could.

    But on the drunk driving problem, agree with Kyle. Main reason our elected reps and judges treat driving as an even more basic- though more dangerously-abused- Constitutional right than bearing firearms is that the vast majority of our people can’t make a living without one.

    It would probably make our roads a lot safer if, like in Sweden, driving were restricted to those who demonstrate better-than-average competence to do it. Bob could get my vote with a promise to give DMV inspectors the choice of giving every applicant either a driver’s license of a four-year transit pass.

    And also, Bob, use that corrections money to get this region a transit system that can not only get people home from the bars in one piece, but also get them to work in good enough time they keep their job. And while you’re still on the County Council, make KC Metro lose “We’ll Get You There.”

    My last serious boss- Metro Transit- put it in writing that a late bus was no excuse for a late report.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Ummm Mark, why would you want to retain McKenna in this current office when he has so clearly abused it? I mean really, trying to stop the access to affordable healthcare for Washington citizens and then refusing to represent the Constitutional Officers of this state in the discharge of their sworn duties? The latter point brought chastisement from the State Supreme Court no less…

      1. Hope this doesn’t get axed for “Off-Topic”, but I’d be madder about the health care business if I didn’t think the health care bill itself was such a cave-in and a sell-out. Specifically, I’m still being forced by Federal law to do business with an industry that has repeatedly victimized me financially these last several years.

        Not only did we not get at least a public option for health care, and not only did Senator Baucus, a Democrat, refuse to put a single Single-Payer advocate on the group he convened to formulate the legislation, but he ordered fifteen people, including doctors and nurses, arrested and dragged out of the Capitol in handcuffs for standing up and asking for some representation.

        Most degrading of all, President Obama essentially gave us a close copy of the health plan brought to Massachussetts by Mitt Romney- to be rewarded for his compromise by treatment from Congress only slightly less vicious than these same people have been using on Mitt Romney.

        If it’s not Unconstitutional to force me to do pay my health care money to insurance company executives, who contribute zilch to any medical team of mine, it should be. And if a Republican health plan is good enough for Barack Obama and an indecent number of Democratic lawmakers, Rob McKenna is okay with me for Attorney General.

        So far my luck with Medicare has been fine. Don’t want another bureaucracy, just extend it to everybody.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Also- last fall, I was riding the 71 out Fairview. Across the aisle were several merchant sailors, on their way to a bar they’d been told about in the U-District. They were discussing how much it would cost to get a cab back to the dock at the end of the night.

      One young sailor announced: “For me, the drunken bus ride back to the boat is the best part of the whole thing!” So maybe the consciousness necessary to a solution is already on the rise.

      I certainly would like to see anyone injuring or killing somebody while driving drunk- or driving willfully dangerously for other reasons- lose their driving privileges for a very long time. But this has long been within the power of the legislature.

      I’d just as soon see a Democrat make a campaign plank out of something else.

      Mark Dublin

  7. I think the only way you will see a decrease in drunk driving is a combination of increased late night transit from nightlife areas to suburbs and random sobriety checkpoints. Unfortunately, the checkpoint idea was ruled unconstitutional in the late 1980’s…see this link

    Checkpoints are really the thing that will drop the drunk driving rate. In Australia, New Zealand, and up in Vancouver BC hardly anyone drives drunk due to the risk of getting caught and they all have checkpoints.

    Here,think about how many people all show up at a house party or even drive up to Capitol Hill at night that all drive, get pretty buzzed(which would be over the limit), and than all drive home.

    The risk of getting caught is extremely low due to lack of checkpoints and because someone has to be doing something illegal such as speeding, weaving, have a taillight or headlight out,etc to actually get pulled over.

  8. With Ferguson moving down to Olywood, and him being an avid bus commuter, maybe he’ll push for a decent bus connection between Seattle and Olywood.

  9. I’ve always favored what I like to call a “scarlet letter” law. Every driver’s license or ID of anyone convicted of DUI gets a red letter “A” emblazond on it. Anyone who sells alcohol will always check ID. Anyone with that letter doesn’t get to purchase or consume alcohol.

  10. Tougher laws are not the issue, really… In 2010, according the FARS database, which tracks car crashes & fatalities/injuries, King County had 19 alcohol-related fatalities; all of New York City only had 20, with 4x the population of King County.

    DUI laws for first-time offenses in NY state have a lower fine, maybe shorter license extension (if BAC is over .15), no mandatory ignition interlock device, and no special insurance required. NYC also has a 4am last-call, something MADD opposes here.

    I’m not saying that our DUI laws don’t need a tune-up, but proper alternatives and land use that puts people ahead of cars would go a lot further.

    1. Where are those numbers from (URL)? They don’t sounds right to me. I find it hard to believe that in a city of 8 million people there was only 1 alcohol related death every 2 weeks.

      1. I did a query here: and checked King county and added up the 5 NYC counties. That said, I might’ve messed something up.

        This page has historical data for all of NY state:

        FARS only tracks motor-vehicle deaths, and I think I only queried cases where the *driver* was marked as alcohol-impaired. So, getting drunk & stepping in front of a cab wouldn’t count.

  11. I don’t understand why the laws–anywhere in this country–are so gentle when it comes to drunk driving. I absolutely believe that if someone is convicted of driving drunk–not even killing/hurting someone, just the act of driving drunk–then that car should be impounded for a minimum of 90 days. Just suspending their license doesn’t do anything. Look at how many people drive with suspended licenses. But take away their car, and at least it makes it far more difficult for them to drive. If this hurts their family–can’t get to work, can’t get to the grocery store, kids can’t get to their sports games–then good. It will show the whole family that what one person does will affect everyone. And then maybe, the whole family will apply peer pressure on that person. Until you get the car away from the offender, it is too easy for them to get behind the wheel and drive.

    1. You’re telling me! I have a tale from my days in Chicago about drunk drivers. I was out driving around in my then brand spankin’ new VW Turbo Passat and I’m waiting at a light and this A##hole rear-ends me. I call 911 to report the accident and tell them that the other person has obviously been drinking. You could smell it from 5 feet away. The 911 operator says that no one is available to come to the seen for some time. I call back after 30 minutes and get this… the operator says if we send an officer to the scene and we determine that the other party is not legally intoxicated, WE WILL ARREST YOU!

      So, after that intimidating response, I get the contact info from the guy and make my way to the precinct to file a complaint. The officer of the watch stood there and basically said you don’t want to mess up the guys life. Just leave it be. I was completely and utterly flabbergasted at this behavior and it was very instructive about how things work in Chicago.

  12. One thing to keep in mind with drunken driving laws is that, if penalties get sufficiently harsh, it becomes in the drunk driver’s best interest to flee the scene of an accident because the hit and run penalties are dwarfed by DWI. Since it will take police long enough to find the offender that they will be unable to prove DWI, the driver will take the less harsh H&R offense. Not a reason not to do it, but hopefully H&R penalties won’t be eclipsed by DWI.

  13. DWI is just one way to be irresponsible on the road. And I’m far from convinced that vengeance really makes a difference. We need a genuine culture of responsibility around driving, appropriate to the task of piloting a vehicle weighing over a ton at high speed. That can’t simply be imposed from the DA’s office (though perhaps when people prove they aren’t responsible with such dangerous vehicles they should be prohibited from using them).

    I know what that responsibility feels like. I can’t avoid the feeling of responsibility when I drive a car, which makes it a sort of unpleasant experience. But it’s pretty clear that’s not ingrained in society as a whole.

  14. Though I feel there’s two fairly wide apart camps on the issues raised here, I think almost all of us can agree that we need to make driving less of a “right”. I’m ok with very long driving privilege removal on even first offense DUIs. I’m also ok with harsh penalties for people caught driving without a license – including impounding their car, etc.

    In California, if you’re caught with a .01 (not a .1, a .01 – or about 1/4 beer for an average sized male) anywhere – not just driving your car – and you’re under 21, the DMV automatically revokes your license for a year. No trial, no discussion. Driving is treated like a privilege there, as it should be, and to them underage drinking is such a problem that it’s worth using big guns to stop it.

    While I disagree this is as effective at stopping underage drinking as they hope*, it does show that they’re not afraid to take someone’s license. That’s a powerful loss in our car-based world, and it’s justifiable to use that power to stop dangerous behavior.

    * I was back at the same party after getting my underage drinking ticket. I never slowed down for a second – I was attending a party school, and I had a social life to keep up with. Luckily, it was a small college town that was easy to bike and walk around, and I never had a shortage of friends to drive me around (in my own car) for the year.

  15. Oh, and back to the issue of jail time being an effective deterrent toward crime, I present to you two numbers.
    1. Prison
    2. Crime

    See any correlation? Sure, correlation doesn’t imply causation, but either there’s something special about the US that makes us dangerous and worth locking up, or it’s time to challenge our “lock ’em up” mentality.

    (actually, the best deterrent to crime is income equality – though I’m not sure what effect that has on drunk driving)

    1. I don’t think we should do either, confuse correlation and causation or the other thing. The important thing to remember is that drugs are most of crimes and prisoners. I don’t want to get into mad conspiracy theories here, but do consider the timing of the removal of jim crow laws and the introduction of the war on drugs.

Comments are closed.