Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Closing In On Better Drunk Driving Laws In Our Inebriated State

Looks like grassroots pressures are setting the stage for a real approach to new drunk driving laws in Wisconsin. Long overdue, but it's taken an epidemic of fatal OWI crashes to get this done, or it's the constant, denied and tolerated epidemic only better publicized by the Journal Sentinel in its ongoing series on drunken driving.

Or both.

Reforming the state's drunk driving laws has been a steady subject of this blog, and rather than reprint citations to what I've written, let me again post a link to a speech by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.

In her remarks, Falk laid out a comprehensive confrontation to the state's wasteful enabling of alcohol over-indulgence in more phases of our lives than just driving, though certainly OWI is a huge problem in Wisconsin, as the Journal Sentinel seies has shown.

Public officials in all the state's counties should have joined Falk's call to action, and it's not too late for state leaders to partner with what is becoming a consensus movement across Wisconsin in favor of new laws that will better protect the public for abusive drinking.

Perhaps some of those community organizers will be involved. I hope so.

But new laws, while important, will be less effective if they are not reinforced with a long-term attitudinal shift - - in families, in organizations, in schools - - and on the part of everyday people, one-by-one.

We need to retire the two-fisted slopper as a Wisconsin stereotype.


Anonymous said...

I just don't understand the appeal for more state-police power, and some of the draconian punishments suggested: 2x-OWI and you’re out, roadblocks, banning people from bars, and so forth.

One – This power will be abused at the point of contact between the police and the citizenry’s most vulnerable members. This is a truism.

Two — I think the empirical case is sketchy. What elements must exist for there to be an 'alcohol-related incident'? I’ve heard fro business owners that the statistic is rather broad and unrevealing.

Three — Should education, an appeal to the intellect be the method through which we do change the behavior in question?

Perhaps a coming together as a community vis a vis more cops, more jail, more state power?

As a thoughful writer with much experience, have you not considered the negative aspects of these tools such as police power and retribution?

Why not put GPS microchips on a drunk driver and have an alarm go off everytime this person goes within a given parameter of an alcohol establishment, and track him for two days and make a record of his travels?

We don't do that because it's Orwellian.

James Rowen said...

Yes, I have considered these issues. I agree that they are real.

I also think that with the way the laws are written now, innocent people are at risk, and are mowed down regularly, by dangerous people - - many with an illness beyond their control without an effort many cannot or will not give.

So it's a matter of protecting the innocent, just as we would do if people in large numbers were firing guns down the road with disregard fo the safety of others.