Six months ago we brought them together at our station, families whose loved ones were killed or traumatically injured by drunk drivers. Those families met again in Olympia Monday testifying in favor of new legislation.
Each of their stories is different, but all are devastating. Karla Wayman’s three month-old son Jayden was killed by a drunk driver who ran a red light in Fife. Steven Lindemann’s wife is in a wheelchair learning to walk again after being hit by a drunk driver the night of her son’s high school graduation. And Frank Blair’s daughter Sheena and her friend Martin Ramirez were killed by a drunk driver going the wrong way on a ramp off I-5 in Everett.
“Our goal is not to jail more people. Our goal is to make DUI more unattractive than it already is," says Blair.
The bills discussed at today’s hearing are HB 1113, 1167, 1556, 1789 and 1646. Individually, they increase jail sentences for first time offenders from one to two days to three days to a week. Another eliminates multiple plea deals, only allowing one in a lifetime. If a drunk driver does plea down to negligent driving, they would still have to have an ignition interlock device installed on their car.
"We want to hold people accountable and reduce the deaths and serious injuries on the roadways. I hope this bill takes another step forward,” says Rep. Roger Goodman.
House Bill 1646 would triple the jail sentences for drunk drivers who kill, raising the sentencing range from vehicular homicide to first degree manslaughter.
"It's your job to do something about this,” said Erica Benge. “It really is. Four and a half years for two murders is not enough. I don't care how much it costs."
Lawmakers say what they heard was incredibly moving.
“Before the meeting I wasn't really sure about my bill. I feel really good about it now and it was all about this testimony, it really was," said Rep. Steve Kirby.
Another bill would require all convicted drunk drivers statewide to attend a victim impact panel. Members of the House Judiciary Committee will decide Thursday whether to move the bills along to the house floor for a vote. Then, the bills would go to the Senate for consideration.