OLYMPIA - The shock may have faded, but outrage is growing over an accused repeat drunk driver killing a woman in a wrong way crash on SR 520 last week, and a repeat offender allegedly running over an entire family in Seattle a week earlier, killing the grandparents and critically injuring a mother and baby.
"I look at drunk drivers just like terrorists walking around with a bomb in their trunk,” said Governor Jay Inslee who termed the recent series of DUI crashes an “emergency.”
"When I see these recent incidents where we have not been able to stem an obvious ticking time bomb, I'm dissatisfied with that,” Inslee said.
The fatal crashes are sparking a new urgency in Olympia to revive house HB 1482, a tough drunk driving reform bill that was stalled and seemed doomed this legislative session until the recent crashes gave it new life. Bill sponsor, Rep. Roger Goodman, (D) Kirkland, called an emergency work group Tuesday to rally support for HB 1482, which close loopholes in current drunk driving laws.
King County Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim wrote the provisions that eliminate deferred sentences and empower judges to hand down extra prison time to offenders who cause wrong way crashes.
"These people (DUI offenders) are killing at a much higher rate than firearms; they continue to kill our citizenry and we have got to take these crimes seriously," Freedheim said.
One addition to HB 1482 under discussion would make a third DUI a felony offense--instead of waiting for number five--a change that carries a hefty price tag.
“It’s $200 million to pay for construction of a new prison to confine all those drunk drivers out there,” Rep. Goodman told the work group, “and we are experiencing budget constraints right now.”
But Governor Inslee said he’s calling for a bigger and bolder package than just HB 1482.
“We can't afford not to do this,” said Inslee. “You can't look a family in the eye who just lost a loved one going to work and say we couldn't afford it.”
Frank Blair's is one of those families. His 24-year-old daughter Sheena Blair was killed in Everett just days before Christmas 2010 by a drunk driver who’d gone the wrong way on an exit ramp.
“Sheena was trapped in the wreckage and it took the fire department twenty minutes to cut her out. She passed away on the way to the hospital,” Bair said.
"The knock on the door in the middle of the night is just too horrible so we feel we have to do everything we can to stop this,” he said.
It could be a little tricky to revive HB 1482 since it missed a key deadline, but Rep. Goodman says it can be done by attaching the bill to the budget.