April 12, 2013 at 8:07 AM
DUI penalties must be more severe
My closest friend was Morgan Williams, the innocent victim killed in last week’s head-on collision with a vehicle being driven by Michael Robertson the wrong way on Highway 520 [“DUI again? Wrong-way driver kills Seattle woman,” front page, April 5]. He was a repeat DUI offender and should not have had the means to get behind the wheel, endangering all who came into his vicinity.
Not only am I incredibly sad at the loss of this wonderful woman, but I’m also incredibly frustrated that our laws and court system aren’t able to prevent these tragedies from happening.
While tougher penalties and fines may influence some people’s decisions regarding whether to get behind the wheel after drinking, those policies are based on the assumption that those people are making rational decisions.
For someone with a chronic drinking problem, there is no rational thought process. In those cases, the decision that they won’t drive needs to be made for them. We need to enact laws that place a physical barrier between them and the road.
I support Rep. Goodman’s proposal that a vehicle that has been impounded due to a DUI should not be released from the impound lot until it has been fitted with an interlock device. The cost of installation should be borne by the offender and/or the vehicle’s owner.
In addition, if someone helps the restricted driver circumvent the interlock device, either by blowing into it for them or by disabling the device, that person should be charged as an accessory and face the same punishment as the driver.
If the driver proceeds to injure or kill someone, they should both face vehicular assault or homicide charges.
Another proposed amendment calls for harsher penalties, specifically for DUI drivers driving on the wrong side of the road. This, again, is based on the assumption that the impaired driver is capable of making a rational decision. Obviously Michael Robertson was not capable of rational thought, and the threat of punishment didn’t come into play when he made his U-turn on Highway 520.
I support the proposal that makes drunken driving a felony on the third conviction rather than on the fifth, but there should be no time limit for including past offenses, as there currently is. If someone has three DUIs in his or her lifetime, that person is done driving, forever.
I encourage all Seattle Times readers to contact their state representatives as soon as possible. Call 1-800-562-6000 to make them hear your voice on House Bill 1482. The clock is ticking and this legislative session ends very shortly.
Earline Carlone, Edmonds
April 2, 2013 at 4:10 AM
Public officials have failed to protect the public from drunken drivers
As one who has lived within two blocks of the horrendous DUI-instigated crash and deaths last Monday, I was outraged and discouraged by the statement of one of our state legislators in the excellent article Sunday addressing state DUI laws [“Do state DUI laws go far enough?” page one, March 31].
I have 24 years of service in the Army, 21 as military police officer, and have seen more than a few DUI-related incidents. The statement of Rep. Roger Goodman, the chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, “I don’t know if we could have prevented a tragedy like that,” exemplifies why our officials have failed to protect the public from people who appear to easily flout the law and drive whenever, wherever and in whatever condition they please.
That drunken driver should have never have been allowed to remain on the street after his last arrest. At the very least, impound the offender’s car and release it only after the offender has paid the impound fees and paid to have an ignition interlock device installed. To anyone with an ounce of common sense, we could have done a lot more to save two lives.
Your solution, Mr. Goodman, to think of how to be “smart,” is precisely the problem that prevents us from reaching effective solutions and saving lives that do not have to be lost. Passing laws that are not enforced and wringing our hands over preventable tragedies is a tragedy in itself.
– John P. Bordenet, Redmond
Legislators should consider wheel boots
Just as with gun control, steps to deal with the incidences of DUIs on the road will never be perfect. But as with gun control, that’s no excuse for failing to enact reasonable measures that can reduce the carnage.
I suggest putting wheel boots on all vehicles owned by persons whose sentences include the requirement that breath-tested ignition locks be installed. Part of the fee for said installation would be a certification that the lock is working properly before removal of the wheel boot. Boots themselves would require a per-day fee to compensate localities for the expense of acquiring, storing and maintaining them. Ten dollars a day would probably do it.
Legislators should also consider a boot process for people arrested for DUI, like the woman who scurried back to her car, still drunk, to drive it into an innocent fellow citizen. Rules for pre-conviction use of such a process would probably have to be less strict, of course, but surely there’s a place for society to protect itself from such outrageous and costly irresponsibility.
– George Randels, Port Townsend
An engineering solution
If engineers can create smart cars that don’t get into accidents, they can also create devices that will lock the ignition of a car when a person is intoxicated so they can’t drive.
Courts can make it mandatory for every car.
– Wendy Haber, Seattle
April 1, 2013 at 4:00 PM
Take away the vehicle
Why do lawmakers think a habitual drunken driver is going to follow the law? [“Do state DUI laws go far enough?” page one, March 31.]
People such as Mark Mullan have no regard for the law and no regard for anyone other than themselves. Mullan thumbed his nose at court orders. He even had the gall to arrive at a DUI hearing drunk. He drove without the ignition lock the court ordered he have installed. He drove after his license was taken away.
Are there really any drunken drivers who stop driving when their license is taken away? It’s time to start impounding the vehicles of drunken drivers.
In reference to the deaths of Dennis and Judy Schulte and serious injury of their daughter-in-law and baby grandson, state House Public Safety Committee Chairman Roger Goodman said, “I don’t know if we could have prevented a tragedy like that.”
You can prevent it by taking away the vehicle. Taking away the license doesn’t stop the drunken driver from getting behind the wheel. Without his truck, Mullan wouldn’t have been able to mow down, maim, kill and destroy a happy family.
– Debbie Wilson, Everett
Stronger punishments needed
How many times do innocent people have to keep losing their lives because of drunken drivers in not only this state but across this great nation?
It is really distressing to continuously see drivers with multiple DUI convictions still out on our roads. The laws need to change, and they need to be tougher.
Something has to give because this is getting out of control, and maybe with stronger punishments some of these repeat offenders will change their ways and our roads can be safer for all.
– Jeff Swanson, Everett
Washington state has one of the toughest DUI laws in the country but if they’re not enforced what good are they? Mark Mullan had 5 DUIs. How come nobody followed up to see if an ignition lock device was installed? He just ignored the judge’s order and nobody checked?
This is an inexcusable and unacceptable tragedy. Mullan needs to be incarcerated and helped with his addiction.
My prayers go out to the remaining Schulte family.
– Carol Soderberg, Redmond
March 29, 2013 at 4:36 PM
The driver, not the street, was the problem
Reading the story about the drunken driver who killed two visitors and critically injured their daughter and grandson just broke my heart [“The road to tragedy: alcohol, second chances,” page one, March 27]. I’ve lived here all my life and know how hard it is to cross many streets since most people don’t stop, even though they can see you.
That said, I was infuriated reading the comments from our elected officials about what to do to make the street safer where this took place. In the article it is noted that “Judges in both Seattle and Snohomish County even said that Mullan could drive, providing he installed an alcoholic-sensitive ignition lock on his pickup. He never did.” Someone needs to explain why his truck wasn’t impounded until he installed the ignition lock. If the law doesn’t allow this, then the law needs to be changed.
This is such a simple solution I don’t know why no one has thought of it before. We don’t need a complicated solution. The problem wasn’t the street, it was the driver.
–Frank Lippman, Seattle
March 28, 2013 at 5:09 PM
Individuals should consider abandoning alcohol entirely
The latest fatalities caused by the drunken driver in Seattle make me weep [“The road to tragedy: alcohol, second chances,” page one, March 27].
Weighing the carnage on the roads, the rapes, assaults and murders committed by people under alcohol’s influence, as well as the ruined marriages, devastated families, lost jobs and destroyed health for those who drink to excess, can one on balance legitimately claim that the fleeting pleasures of alcohol consumption are worth the terrible personal and social costs?
We all know that Prohibition failed and that outlawing alcohol’s consumption doesn’t work. But society will still be better off for each individual who chooses to listen to the “better angels of our nature” and simply chooses not to drink. This concept is not obsolete.
–Patrick L. McKenzie, Sammamish
March 28, 2013 at 7:39 AM
New trial is about money
The Italians who are trying to bring Amada Knox back to Italy are only in need of more money in the judicial coffers [“Knox: ‘My family and I will face this ... legal battle,” NWWednesday, March 27].
This ploy is not about guilt or innocence. It’s all about money. They made millions off the first trial and they want to have a second chance to do it again. The feds need to step in this time and prevent double jeopardy in this ridiculous case. She was acquitted and they can’t have a do-over.
–Sharon McConville, Bellevue
March 27, 2013 at 5:07 PM
Action should preclude tragedy
The tragedy on Northeast 75th Street was a needless event [“The road to tragedy: alcohol, second chances,” page one, March 27]. The city has known of the speeding issues on Northeast 75th. The driver was known to have alcohol issues and never installed an alcohol-sensitive ignition lock mandated by the court.
When the court mandates something, whose responsibility is it to ensure it is done? Two examples of the government failing to protect its citizens. Killing two people outright, critically injuring two more, indicates the driver was going way too fast.
I wrote to the Seattle Police Department a few months ago with my concerns about the speeding and lawlessness on Northeast 75th. I was reassured that patrols would be stepped up, yet never saw anyone pulled over for speeding. One article referenced a study finding 85 percent of westbound drivers were driving 37 mph or less [“For neighborhood, heavy traffic on N.E. 75th a growing concern,” News], but 37 mph is still speeding. I wrote in my letter to the SPD that a tragedy was waiting to happen. Unfortunately, that was a self-fulfilling prophecy and a family is destroyed due to inactions of the city and the actions of an individual.
Why does it take a tragedy to spur action?
–Karen Kilian, Seattle
March 27, 2013 at 6:24 AM
DUI offenders should not be driving
A driver kills two pedestrians and critically injures two other people, one a 10-day-old infant [“Driver in fatal wreck had 2 DUI arrests,” page one, March 26].
It has been reported (and is a matter of public record) that this driver had two previous DUI offenses and has been “struggling with the bottle.”
My question is: Why are our laws so lenient that repeat DUI offenders are allowed to keep driving motor vehicles? It might be inconvenient for them to walk, to take the bus, or to depend upon others for rides, but that is the price they should pay. When will we learn that it is not worth the risk to allow repeat DUI offenders to get behind the wheel?
If it were up to me, someone convicted of two DUI offenses would be ordered never to drive again, and if they ever did, they would be sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives with absolutely no chance of parole.
–Richard Fuhr, Seattle
March 26, 2013 at 4:28 PM
Olympia should prioritize prison reform
Thank you for the excellent, full opinion-page coverage suggesting alternatives to building a new state prison [“Consider alternatives to a new state prison,” Opinion, March 24]. I look forward to continuing coverage exploring further alternatives to expensive and largely ineffective long-term incarceration.
As suggested, there is mounting research-based evidence from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy and from others that education and re-entry programs not only serve to more successfully rehabilitate inmates back into society, but they are also more cost effective than longer prison terms in reducing recidivism.
After decades of increasing our prison population and the billions of dollars it has cost us, the time is ripe for legislators on both sides of the aisle — and perhaps most especially Gov. Jay Inslee — to establish a primary objective of accomplishing prison reform in our state. Thank you for your leadership toward this end.
–Tom Ewell, chairman, Criminal Justice Working Group
Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy, Clinton
March 21, 2013 at 5:16 PM
Memorial will bring negative notoriety
What a terrible idea [“ ‘It’s still a huge wound’: Remembering the Green River victims,” page one, March 20]!
Mass murderers delight in the notoriety and sensationalism resulting from their crimes. If these people are memorialized because of the manner of their deaths, we will have every murderer trying to outdo him in their own quest for notoriety.
–Dottie Krigbaum, Coupeville
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