As I See It
Will Wisconsin finally get tough on drunk drivers?
Members of the Wisconsin legislature are likely to once again debate strengthening Wisconsin’s drunk driving laws. If history is any guide, our lawmakers will do little to address the problem. Wisconsin has a long history of brushing off the dangers of drunk driving, and remains the only state in the nation that fails to consider first offense drunk driving a crime. Lawmakers have over the years spent much time debating strengthening these laws, but little has come of it. They did finally make the fourth offense drunk driving a felony a couple years ago, but more needs to be done. Rep. Jim Ott of Mequon has introduced a series of bills designed to toughen Wisconsin’s drunk driving laws. One would set a minimum of five years in prison for anyone driving drunk who kills someone. Currently there is no minimum sentence for drunk driving homicides. A second bill would raise the minimum incarceration for fifth and sixth offenses from six months to 18 months. Another piece of legislation would prohibit anyone caught driving drunk from driving any vehicle without an ignition interlock device. That should be a priority. The latest numbers from Mothers Against Drunk Driving show some 37,000 people tried to get behind the wheel while drunk in one year’s time, but were prevented from doing so by ignition interlock devices. That is more than any other state. La Crosse police call the numbers staggering, and they are right. Wisconsin needs to do more to toughen our drunk driving laws. This package of legislation is a good start.