Hand over the car keys, please | Editorial

If anyone were in need of greater incentive not to get behind the wheel after having too much to drink, it’s about to come to pass.

With approval of the Legislature, changes to the state’s driving under the influence laws are now parked on the governor’s desk and, with the stroke of a pen, will become effective beginning in August. Expectations in Olympia are that Gov. Gregoire won’t hesitate to sign those changes into law.

Under House Bill 2443, the penalty for DUI vehicular homicide would be equal to manslaughter: 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 years, and a felony DUI conviction would remain on one’s record permanently (the minimum penalty for a DUI conviction – home electronic monitoring – would remain the same).

In addition, the bill also requires cameras to be installed on ignition-interlock devices of those convicted of DUI as a provision of getting their license reinstated, an extra $20 per-month fee. The state Department of Licensing would also take over the license reinstatement program as well.

The bill also ups the reimbursement fee for emergency response from $1,000 to $2,500, when warranted.

While we applaud these new provisions, which are intended to close loopholes and hold those convicted of felony DUI even more accountable, chances are that they won’t put an end to drinking and driving, and the risk it carries, by themselves.

That’s where stronger resolve on everyone’s part might make the biggest difference. The best prevention against drinking and driving, and the dire consequences that can result, is to not get behind the wheel when intoxicated.

It may be overused, but it’s very true: friends don’t let friends drive drunk. So as a friend, or maybe even as an acquaintance, we all should do our part to prevent drinking and driving.

There’s no better time than now.