When Senate Bill 5912 was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on July 18, state legislators considered it a victory in the fight to prevent future fatalities related to drunk driving.
The companion House Bill 2030 was introduced by state Rep. Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup. Morrell, who was elected in the 25th District in November 2012, said it’s important work. She’s a mother, grandmother and critical care nurse.
Morrell was recognized by The Century Council on Dec. 16 for her dedication to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking. The council is a national nonprofit organization that leads efforts to eliminate drunk driving.
Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of the council, labeled Morrell a “hard-working advocate” for the people in the 25th District.
“We can’t thank the representative enough for her leadership on preventing drunk driving by sending a clear and constant message that it is illegal and will not be tolerated,” Blackman said. “We look forward to expanding our relationship and continuing to work with Rep. Morrell in the future.”
Morrell said her passion to introduce legislation that would implement stiffer penalties started with her friendship with Frank Blair, a constituent whose 24-year-old daughter, Sheena, was killed by a drunk driver.
“I’ve had to ask the family of a 12-year-old drunk-driving victim if they want their child to be an organ donor,” Morrell said following the House approval of DUI reform. “As a nurse and as a mother, these decisions are too painful to imagine. The changes we made today will make Washington roadways safe for our kids and grandkids.”
Morrell said she’s thankful for the partnership with Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, chair of the public safety committee, and also Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick.
SB 5912 requires those charged with a DUI to install an interlock device in their vehicle within five business days of their release from jail. The legislation also provides funding to the courts for prosecutors to file charges against DUI offenders.
Morrell said it stiffens penalties for those who drive under the influence on the wrong side of the road, and those who drive with young children in the vehicle while they are intoxicated.
All DUI convictions will be counted toward a person’s total convictions, according to the bill.
“If they deferred the sentence, it’s still counted as a prior,” Morrell said. “A pleading down from a DUI will still be counted as a DUI.”
Morrell said she and her fellow legislators “took a wise course in dealing with the problem.”
“There was really good input from both sides of the aisle,” Morrell said. “This award recognizes that the state of Washington is stepping up to the plate. We’re getting tougher and smarter, and adding to the work that is being done.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.