Senate committee passes Padden bill to reduce impaired driving

OLYMPIA…A bill from 4th District Sen. Mike Padden that aims to reduce impaired driving on Washington’s roads and highways is advancing through the Senate.

Senate Bill 5791 was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee this past Thursday. The proposal would require the Washington State Patrol to establish a pilot program to evaluate the outcomes and effectiveness of oral fluid swabs as part of the enforcement of impaired-driving laws.  

“Impaired driving continues to be a growing problem on our state’s roads, so the Legislature needs to take additional steps to combat it,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “Oral-swab testing represents one more tool for law enforcement in reducing impaired driving. It’s important for law enforcement to see how effective the oral-swab tests would help in determining if drivers are legally impaired. If the pilot program under this proposal proves to be effective, as it has proven to be in Indiana, the Legislature can make oral-swab testing a permanent part of our state’s efforts to decrease impaired driving in Washington.”

During its public hearing in the transportation committee, many people testified in favor of the proposal. Supporters include the Washington State Patrol, Chuck DeWeese with the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving, Christopher Kirby of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and Ashley Bonus with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

TVW’s coverage of the SB 5791 public hearing is available for viewing here.

SB 5791 is on the Senate’s second-reading calendar, which means it could receive a full Senate vote at any time.

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, Washington road deaths reached a 21-year high in 2022. There were 740 traffic deaths in 2022, 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.