Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stage Set To Strengthen Wisconsin's Weak OWI Laws

We'll see if the Tavern League and other enablers of Wisconsin's pathetic OWI policies (first offense is a ticket, etc.) can overcome plans by Gov. Jim Doyle and some legislators to get tougher on drunk driving in Wisconsin.

I expect some movement in both enforcement and education, but not a wholesale reform. The state still tolerates over-consumption of alcohol.

So safe driving this New Year's Eve - - then contact your legislators and the Governor, and demand:

A first offense becomes a misdemeanor.

A second offense becomes a felony.

Ignition locks become mandatory for all second offenders, and a first-offender whose blood alcohol count is .10, or 25% beyond the legal limit.

A third offense requires mandatory vehicle seizure, because driving is a privilege, not a right, and three OWI convictions represent a dangerous inability to maintain sobriety and a serial threat to the public life and limb.

Substantial funds are provided to schools for alcohol education beginning in middle school.


MAL said...

Please forgive my repeatedly expressed opinion on this, but I remain mystified by your faith in the state and police to solve this problem.

Criminalization of drinking, which is the de facto result of what you propose, is not the answer.

Your proposed criminality solutions will be abused by the police; they will harm the most vulnerable among us; the Forth Amendment will be further shredded, and approaching the draconian in public policy will not address the problems that underlie drinking excessively and driving.

Education, appeals to the intellect, and community messages are the solutions.

No one wants to see a four-time drunken driver behind the wheel but your proposed solutions will do much more harm than good.

James Rowen said...

Thank you, Michael, but I disagree.

I support bringing Wisconsin's laws into line with many other states' practices, and I am not aware that there are civil rights violations underway in that enforcement.

I think society deserves greater protection from repeat offenders, and it's generally-acccepted in the state that culturally, binge drinking is tolerated, if not encouraged.

I came to Wisconsin from out-of-state as a college freshman and was astounded at the drinking culture on campus - - which many of the kids said was the culture in which they were raised back home.

One of our sons' high school graduation celebration in Shorewood some years ago was devastated by the drunken driving death of one of his classmates - - following parties at which underage kids were served by parents, a local tradition we later learned.

I'm all for greater education and programming, as I said.

But the balance is tipped too much in favor of the careless drinker in Wisconsin, leaving the rest of us at risk.

Anonymous said...

There are over 4 million drivers in the state of wisconsin.
More than 42,000 drivers - about equal to the population of Fond du Lac - were convicted of drunken driving offenses in Wisconsin in 2007.
Alcohol-related crashes killed 337 people in Wisconsin and injured more than 5,500 in 2007.
Approximately 46 percent of all fatal traffic crashes in Wisconsin are alcohol-related, and 47 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes in Wisconsin are alcohol-related.
A 2006 follow-up to the 1999 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies study found that medication errors are among the most common medical mistakes, harming at least 1.5 million people every year. According to the study, 400,000 preventable drug-related injuries occur each year in hospitals, 800,000 in long-term care settings, and roughly 530,000 among Medicare recipients in outpatient clinics. The report stated that these are likely to be conservative estimates. In 2000 alone, the extra medical costs incurred by preventable drug related injuries approximated $887 million – and the study looked only at injuries sustained by Medicare recipients, a subset of clinic visitors. None of these figures take into account lost wages and productivity or other costs.
Remember thats just Medicare recipients.Deaths are in the hundred of thousands total.
My point is out of 4 million drivers in the state not counting drivers from out of state,337 deaths and about 5,500 injured.The percent break down is nothing.
I dont see a problem, the problem is the heatlh care system,a place you go to get better.
I care hear all the arguments,write if you must,but it will fall on deaf ears.

James Rowen said...

To Anonymous; I appreciate the comment, but the comparison between alcohol-related death and injuries to medical errors is interesting, but irrelevant.

And that the percentage of OWI deaths is a small percentage of the population doesnt mean that we let it go.

There's a human face and story to each of those deaths, and we know that those numbers can be reduced with a blend of tougher enforcement and education.

Wisconsin can attack drunk driving if it chooses.

It's a matter of political will and I think that public opinion is pushing the political system to react.