Story Summary

Suspected DUI accidents

In 2012, 38,000 people were arrested for driving impaired, according to the Washington Department of Transportation. In 2011, there were more than 6,000 DUI-related crashes.  Of all the fatal accidents in Washington, more than one-third involved alcohol.

Within a 10-day period in 2013 (from March 25 until April 3), three people in the Seattle area were killed in two separate accidents by suspected drunken drivers. The incidents led to calls for tougher DUI legislation.

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SEATTLE — It was slated to be the first time since the March 25 suspected DUI accident that killed his parents and put his wife and baby son in the hospital that Dan Schulte was ready to talk.

But a press conference that Schulte and his sister had scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday was canceled after his infant son suffered some health complications. The boy has been moved from Harborview Medical Center to another hospital, but it is unknown which hospital he was moved to.

schulteSchulte’s wife remains at Harborview.

Schulte and his sister were going to speak about the accident in north Seattle and the need for tougher state DUI laws.

Police say the accused repeat drunk driver, Mark Mullan, had a blood alcohol level that was more than twice the legal limit at the time of the accident.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee and legislators announced a new bill Tuesday to increase penalties for DUI convictions, including mandatory arrest on a first offense and a choice of six months in jail or enrollment in a new sobriety program on a second offense.

Offenders will be sentenced to one year in jail on their third offense.

“There are no more free passes for those who choose to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Inslee said at a news conference with a bipartisan group of state lawmakers as they unveiled the new DUI bill, HB 2030/SB5912).

The governor’s office said the program, implemented in South Dakota, provides stricter accountability and substance abuse support that has proven to reduce recidivism.

Additional provisions in the bill include installation of ignition interlock devices on all DUI defendant vehicles, authorization to establish DUI courts in local municipalities, and increased funding for the state’s Target Zero program.

“Every accident and every death we see involving a DUI could have been prevented,” said Inslee. “People who choose to get behind the wheel must know that we are done giving them a free pass.”

The bill is supported by legislators in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle.

“As someone pointed out this past week at our joint committee work session, there is no crime more preventable than DUI,” said state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “This new Senate bill has a lot of things in it that should help prevent DUIs, including some approaches our committee brought to the table after talking with justice officials in other states.”

“We’ve worked hard to strengthen our DUI laws and with some success, reducing alcohol-related deaths and injuries on the roadways by more than 35%. The recent tragedies remind us that we have more work to do, so we need even tougher and smarter laws, especially to stop repeat offenders,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, who heads the state’s Impaired Driving Work Group.

“Victims of drunk drivers don’t get a second chance at life, so it’s time we stop giving the drunk drivers a second chance. Governor Inslee has proposed strong new measures and although we only have a short time before the session ends, I know we have the political will to pass these important reforms into law,” Goodman said.

HB 2030 and SB 5912 are scheduled for a public hearing on Thursday in a joint session of the House and Senate.

duiOLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers will hold a news conference Tuesday to announce a new bill aimed at creating stiffer penalties for DUI drivers.

The governor’s office said the news conference would be held at 2 p.m.

SEATTLE — A hard push to stop drunken driving took place during a high-level meeting Thursday between top lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee in Olympia, just hours after the man charged in a fatal Seattle accident made an appearance in court.

Prosecutors contend suspect Mark Mullan drove his pickup truck under the influence on March 25 and killed a married couple and critically injured their daughter-in-law and infant grandson in the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle.

Mullan pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday. But if convicted, he could spend nearly two decades in prison.

“It is manslaughter …  it is recklessly engaging in behavior that you know, or should know, could kill somebody,” King County deputy prosecutor Amy Freedheim said outside the courtroom.

Prosecutors say Mullan’s blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit when his pickup struck the four pedestrians crossing the street.

Dennis and Judy Shulte were killed instantly. Their daughter-in-law and her newborn son remain in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center.

“If we learn anything from this tragedy, it is that choices we make daily affect the people around us. Every person must have accountability and be responsible to fellow citizens,” said Judy Schulte’s sister, Ruth Dwyer.

Accountability and responsibility were the focus of a closed-door meeting in Olympia between state lawmakers and the governor. They are looking to toughen the state’s DUI laws, including reducing the number of DUIs it takes (from five to three) for a felony charge and also speeding up the judicial process.

“There is this very dangerous window between the arrest (of a DUI suspect) and the final disposition of the case when there’s no (ignition interlock) device on the car and no accountability, so we want to close that window and make the roads safer that way. That is one of the most important provisions,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland.

Earlier Thursday, members of the House Law and Justice Committee heard ideas from judges, police and prosecutors.

Some called for tougher rules on interlock devices that prevent vehicles from being started by those who have consumed alcohol. Others want police sobriety checkpoints occasionally set up in Washington.

“I know that’s a controversial issue, but the one thing with that is the 39 other states that implemented those (sobriety checkpoints) have seen between a 20 and 25 percent reduction in fatal collisions involving an impaired driver,” Traffic Safety Commission member Darrin Grondel said.

A bill to impose longer sentences for repeat offenders was already passed last year. One of the supporters of that legislation was Freedheim, who is now prosecuting Mullan.

“It is the most preventable crime, there is no excuse, there is no excuse for driving impaired,” Freedheim said.

“Since these tragedies, we are moved now — spurred into action — to get important DUI legislation passed this year,” Goodman said.

He added that the third-time felony provision might be a tough sell because it would likely require building a new state prison at a cost of about $200 million.

He also wants to give more money to the Washington State Patrol for enforcement, more money for prosecutors to bring cases more quickly, and more money for treatment – all a tough sell in tight budget times.

 

 

duiBREMERTON — A Silverdale man was arrested for driving under the influence twice in 24 hours, the Kitsap Sun reported Thursday.

Citing court documents, the Sun said the driver is alleged to have nearly struck multiple drivers April 5 in rural Central Kitsap. He was arrested and treated at Harrison Medical Center because his blood-alcohol level was too high for jail. After leaving the hospital, he caused two crashes April 6 in Bremerton, the documents said.

Joseph Edward Yedinak, 54, of Silverdale, was being held in the Kitsap County Jail on $150,000 bail. Kitsap County prosecutors have charged him with DUI, and Bremerton city prosecutors have charged him with DUI and reckless driving.

 

tumwater ped axTUMWATER — A 51-year-old man was arrested for suspicion of drunken driving and vehicular assault after he allegedly hit a 13-year-old boy with a pickup truck, police said Thursday.

At 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, police responded to a call about a vehicle hitting a pedestrian in the area of Linderson Way at Dennis Street SW.  When they arrived, the found a 13-year-old boy in the middle of the street.

Police were told that the boy had been lying in the roadway prior to being struck by a 2007 GMC pickup truck. It is unclear why the boy was lying in the roadway prior to being hit.

The boy suffered multiple serious injuries and was transported to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, where he underwent emergency surgery before being transported to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

Officers conducted a sobriety test on the driver, which they said he failed. Tumwater police said the man was under the influence of an unknown substance.

The man was arrested for vehicular assault and booked into the Thurston County Jail.

SEATTLE — With several recent accidents involving alleged drunken drivers, many are asking what can be done to keep drunks from getting behind the wheel?

Lt. Rob Sharpe, the impaired driving section commander with the Washington State Patrol, talked about the issue Friday.

wrong way victim carSEATTLE — Vehicular homicide charges were filed against a driver accused of driving the wrong way on SR 520 and causing a fatal car accident Thursday morning.

King County prosecutor Dan Donohoe filed the charges Michael Anthony Robertson, 25, Friday afternoon. He is also accused of driving while intoxicated.

Morgan Williams was driving to her job at Eddie Bauer’s in Bellevue when the crash happened shortly before 5:30 a.m. Williams, 58, was transported to Harborview Medical Center where she later died of her injuries.

Detectives allege that Robertson smelled of alcohol after the crash. He had been arrested for drunk driving on Dec. 15, 2012, and was slated to appear in court on April 11.

If Robertson is found guilty of the charges, he could face up to 102 months in prison. His bail has been set at $1 million and he will be arraigned on April 18

SEATTLE — It’s been a deadly few weeks on Western Washington roads — three people killed and eight hurt in what police say are all drunken driving crashes.

Most would agree something needs to be done to stop what seems to be a growing problem of impaired driving.

It’s not a new problem, but there seems to be a new sense of urgency with so much loss of life in such a short period of time.

The deadly DUI related fatal crash Thursday morning on SR 520 near Montlake didn’t have to happen and Morgan Williams, the woman killed in the head-on collision by a suspected DUI wrong-way driver, didn’t have to die.

State Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said he believes one solution might be his pending DUI bill, which, in part, would crack down on the type of crashes seen Thursday.

“Wrong-way DUI, driving drunk down the wrong way is an extremely dangerous situation; we’d be increasing penalties on that, so there are many provisions in the bill,” Goodman said.

That legislation hasn’t made it to a vote yet, but with three fatal DUI crashes in the area in just the last month, many feel it’s time to send a stronger message.

North Star Treatment Group owner and substance abuse counselor Craig Rock said most of the people who take his alcohol education class do so by court order.

But, because of recent DUI fatality crashes, he is offering the class free to anyone except those with a court order.

He believes what can be learned here could save lives.

“Because if you understand how to use alcohol or intoxicants responsibly, then you’re going to know how to operate a vehicle and not be in danger to yourself or other people,” Rock said.

North Star Treatment Group offers a class full of information, and there are drunken driving survivors and family members who share very emotional stories about the impact drunken drivers had on their lives.

To learn more about North Start Treatment Group, click here.

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