Oregon’s northern neighbor has taken a bold step on drunk driving penalties. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week signed legislation that will target drivers suspected of a second impaired driving offense. The driver will face mandatory arrest and will have an interlock device installed on their vehicle within five days of being charged.

The state also will begin a pilot program in as many as three counties and two cities not in those counties to conduct daily alcohol monitoring of anyone convicted twice under the driving under the influence law.

Oregon has an interlock law, but it comes after conviction, not arrest. Washington’s new law is akin to the kind of drunk driving laws one finds in northern European countries. It was prompted by recent fatal collisions involving drunk drivers in Washington.

Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis says that, “It’s not unusual for us to see someone with a record of even, eight or nine DUII offenses.” He notes that Oregon has a felony DUII law that is tougher than Washington’s. After four convictions within 10 years, an Oregon driver goes to prison.

State drunk driving laws have evolved over decades, prodded by Mothers Against Drunk Driving as well as the federal government. In 2000, the feds forced states to adopt a consistently lower presumptive level of intoxication. The federal hammer was denial of federal transportation moneys if states didn’t adopt the standard of .08 percent.

Oregon voters have been readier to impose harsh DUII penalties than have state legislators. Oregon’s DUII felony was adopted as part of Measure 73 on the 2010 general election ballot.

Sober drivers are not patient with drunk drivers. It is a chilling experience to confront one on the road. Oregon will eventually stiffen its DUII laws. But it will take a series of painful DUII fatalities, as it just has in Washington.

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