SEATTLE — It may be difficult to comprehend how someone could get in a vehicle and drive under the influence, but it’s especially confounding when the driver is nearly three times over the legal limit.
That’s what police and prosecutors allege Mark Mullan did Monday before he plowed into four people in Seattle, killing a married couple and critically injuring their daughter-in-law and her 10-day-old son.
“A car in the hands of a drunk can be as dangerous as a gun,” Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Tuesday.
Lindquist added that it’s more common than one might think and repeat offenders, such as Mullan, who’s been arrested for DUI three times in the last six months, are the worst.
“Your most dangerous drunk driver is not the first-time DUI but the third-time DUI, the fifth-time DUI, the seventh-time DUI. Those are the chronic alcoholic drivers,” Lindquist said.
Mullan was driving with a suspended license because of his prior arrests and he was supposed to have in his vehicle an ignition interlock device, which would have required him to blow into it (with no alcohol detected) before he could start his pickup truck.
But Lindquist said neither is foolproof.
“You’re not supposed to drive with a suspended license, but some people still do. You’re not supposed to drive without an interlock device when so ordered by the court, but some people still do,” Lindquist said.
“Now we have this horrible murder, basically, on the roadway,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, who has sponsored tougher DUI laws in Olympia.
Goodman said there are 40,000 arrests for DUI every year in Washington and more than 25,000 court-ordered ignition interlock devices attached to vehicles all over the state.
The problem is that enforcement is hampered by dwindling budgets.
“Much better enforcement of those who are supposed to have the interlock device” would help, Goodman said. “It’s hard to tell who is driving with or without a license — that’s a tough one. Probation departments are strapped right now, and so if we had better supervision, that might make a difference.”
The Legislature has, over the past couple of years, increased funding for enforcement, but if someone is intent on breaking the law, Goodman said, a device won’t stop them.
“We’ve increased funding for the State Patrol to go and make sure that those who are supposed to have the interlock device do, but for someone like this, who is just going to ignore a court order, going to drive without a license, not put the device in the car, I don’t know if we can prevent every tragedy, but we’re going to look hard at this one,” Goodman said.