I have been campaigning for years through blogs and freelance pieces for toughened drunk driving laws in Wisconsin.
So as we head into a mid-week holiday where motorists will be tempted to drink and drive, I will be glad to promote stronger laws proposed by Republicans State Rep. Jim Ott and State Sen. Albert Darling, and by the Milwaukee Sheriff, David Clarke, as outlined in this Journal Sentinel story.
Darling wants to make felony charges available to prosecutors more quickly for repeat Wisconsin OWI offenders, and Clarke wants Wisconsin to join all other states in criminalizing a first offense.
The reformers also want more treatment, and I'm completely on board with that, too. It's obviously a long, hard slog and sell in Wisconsin, and good ideas need support even if the pace of change is slow.
More than four years ago I had this to say:
Let's make a first OWI a misdemeanor instead of a ticket, and move a second OWI from misdemeanor to felony - - and add mandatory vehicle seizure for a repeat offender, too.In 2009, I wrote:
I think having to watch your vehicle confiscated, sold or compacted before your eyes would be a stiff inducement to help put a repeat offender into serious rehab, and serve as a definite deterrent to others still disinterested in driving while sober.
And let the state auction off the seized vehicles to finance better law enforcement against drunk driving, from new equipment to overtime for sobriety checkpoints near known, problem taverns or on holidays.
The legislature is going to have to a do a great deal more than OK some ignition locks for some OWI offenders to make a dent in the state's drunken-driving culture.And in 2011, when the Legislature caved to special interests, I wrote:
Until Wisconsin joins the other 49 states and criminalizes a first-offense, everything else is window-dressing.Also needed: making a second offense a felony, and providing widespread drunk-driving education and treatment.
Another effort is underway to put Wisconsin in line with the other 49 states and make first-offense drunk driving more than the mere ticket it is now.
I've lost track of the number of times I have argued for this on my blog for years.
I find it unlikely that the Legislature and Governor have the spine to take on the state's brewing, tavern and "hospitality" lobbies.
Note that pilots may not fly within eight hours of consuming any alcohol. Reflex impairment after imbibing is a well-known reality.
Make this a bi-partisan and non-partisan effort. Let's slam the door on the lobbyists, get drunk drivers off the roads, protect the public and help problem drinkers repair their lives.