Governor signs impaired-driving bill that includes Padden policy

Amid Washington traffic fatalities reaching their highest point in over 30 years, Gov. Jay Inslee today signed House Bill 1493, a measure to combat impaired driving that includes policy proposed by 4th District Sen. Mike Padden for years.

The final version of HB 1493 was passed March 6 by the House on a 69-27 vote. The Senate approved it 49-0 on Feb. 29. The new law takes effect June 6.

“This new and overdue law is a major step toward making Washington roads and highways safer,” said Padden, Republican leader on the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “It includes provisions that will keep more repeat impaired drivers off the road.”

An amendment approved by the Senate added language from Senate Bill 5032, a measure introduced by Padden that would expand the period for reviewing prior convictions of impaired driving to 15 years, from the 10 years now in state law, when determining whether a new offense of impaired driving is charged as a felony.

The policy language from Padden’s SB 5032 kept in the bill signed today also would increase the penalty to a felony offense, rather than a gross misdemeanor, for any person who has three or more prior DUI offenses within that “lookback” period.

Adding the ‘lookback’ language to the new law will help keep additional repeat impaired-driving offenders off the roads, said Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

“Washington has seen a significant increase in traffic deaths over the past few years. Drunken driving and drug-impaired driving, especially by repeat offenders, are two leading causes. House Bill 1493 will help remove the most dangerous drivers from our roads and highways and get them into treatment or they will be held accountable by the state criminal justice system. This bill provides good balance, as it is strong on treatment while also being strong on accountability,” added Padden.

Padden said many traffic fatalities in the state involve drivers who have had as many as eight DUI offenses, but he noted the current 10-year lookback period is not long enough to allow the state to impose stronger punishment against such offenders.

“Repeat impaired-driving offenders commit most of the vehicular homicides and vehicular assaults in Washington. We now have a new law to prevent those horrible and senseless crimes,” said Padden, a former Spokane County district court judge.

According to a recent Seattle Times story, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission predicts 2023 will surpass 800 traffic fatalities, the most the state has seen since 1990.

WTSC data shows there were 740 traffic deaths in the state in 2022 (the highest in over 30 years), including 389 fatalities involving drug- or alcohol-impaired driving. There were 674 traffic deaths in 2021, including 345 fatalities involving impaired driving. In 2020, Washington had 574 traffic fatalities, including 282 involving impaired driving.