Rep. Roger Goodman, a Democrat who represents Redmond and other communities in Washington’s 45th Legislative District, was among three recipients of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Safety Champions Award, Sept. 23 at the Bellevue Hilton Hotel.
The Kirkland resident was one of the lead sponsors of a bill that allows people convicted of DUI to drive with a provisional license if they install an ignition interlock device on their car. Sensor technology in the device determines whether the driver has been drinking and disables the ignition if alcohol is detected in the driver’s bloodstream.
When the law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2009, it’s estimated to save at least 100 lives per year.
John Moffat, administrator of NHTSA, Region 10, bestowed the awards upon Goodman, Sen. Dale Brandland of the 42nd Legislative District (Bellingham and North Whatcom County) and Rep. Pat Lantz of the 26th Legislative District (covering parts of Pierce and Kitsap Counties).
Moffat stated that the Safety Champions Awards are not given annually but only from time to time, as warranted by special achievements.
“We are striving for zero deaths and zero disabling injuries on Washington highways by the year 2030,” Moffat explained.
He said certain “X” factors such as setting the legal blood alcohol limit at 0.08, enforcing the use of safety belts and child restraint devices and issuing graduated driving licenses to young, inexperienced drivers all have had positive effects toward reducing deaths and injuries.
But the use of the ignition interlock vehicle license program “was something that was unthinkable 10 years ago — the technology wasn’t there,” said Moffat.
Accepting his award, Goodman described his fervor to do something about the average of 300 people who are killed on roadways in Washington each year. “It’s not just 300 deaths on the road, but 300 families, 300 communities touched, the ripple effect,” said Goodman.
Sobriety checkpoints have been suggested but highway patrols can’t stop every vehicle out there — and as Goodman pointed out, the practice makes people think of tactics used in the former Soviet Union.
The interlock ignition device allows convicted drunk drivers to continue to go to work but will stop them from operating a vehicle when they shouldn’t. It also means that their family members who share the same car can drive freely, as long as they obey the law.
Following the awards presentation, Goodman told the Redmond Reporter he got excited about this program based on research done in the state of New Mexico, where interlock ignition devices led to a 35 percent decline in accidents in one year.
“If we lock ’em up, they get out,” Goodman explained. “We fine them or take their license away — they drive, anyway. This is a fair deal. We can grab 60 percent of the people who’ve exercised poor judgment. Many are not habitual drunk drivers. They may have gone out after work, had a couple of glasses of wine. They thought they were okay to drive. This’ll keep them in check and make them take the bus home that night.”
And to create accountability, “Your license says you need this device,” he added. “You can’t fool this device. It’s a skin detector now, more accurate than a breathalyzer.”
The devices cost $700 and drivers required to used them will pay a monthly fee to the manufacturer as well as an additional fee to cover the cost of devices for poor/indigent drivers who need them.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Goodman.