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Evaluation of the Impact of Seattle's DWLS Impound Law

NCJ Number
Laura J. Hickman; Terry Fain; Susan Turner; Greg Ridgeway; Barbara Raymond; J. R. Lockwood
Date Published
December 2003
147 pages
This study evaluated the impact of Seattle's (Washington) law that allows the impounding of vehicles of those who drive while their license is suspended (DWLS).
Of particular concern in this evaluation was whether the law was too harsh on drivers whose licenses had been suspended for any minor (third degree) offense (DWLS3 drivers). The evaluation found that DWL3 drivers were more likely to be involved in an accident than were validly licensed drivers and drivers with suspensions but no DWLS offenses. Further, they were nearly as likely to have accidents as driver whose licenses had been suspended for more serious violations (DWLS1 and 2). The evaluation determined that the law apparently had no effect on DWLS court filing rates in Seattle compared to two Washington State cities without such a law. The evaluation concluded that the Impound Law had a weak effect (if any) on DWLS violations, and there was no indication it helped reduce other driving offenses. Neither did the law significantly reduce DWLS reoffending in Seattle compared with the other two cities without such a law. DWLS drivers who owned impounded vehicles were less likely to reoffend than DWLS drivers who were not driving their own vehicles. Thus, the findings suggest that if involvement in accidents is the primary criterion, DWLS3 drivers may be appropriate targets of the Impound Law; however, it does not provide a general or specific deterrent effect. If tailored to drivers who are owners of the impounded vehicle and those with prior DWLS records, it may reduce repeat DWLS offenses. The evaluation used driving records of Seattle residents; compared rates of DWLS offenses and other traffic offenses before and after the law's implementation in Seattle with two comparison cities; and compared the reoffending of DWLS drivers in the three cities. Extensive tables and figures