Friday, September 18, 2009

Wisconsin Assembly, Under The Wrong Influences, Backs Weak OWI Package

Wisconsin State Assembly members are hailing their unanimous adoption of some tepid, baby-step OWI reform proposals as a major move against Wisconsin's drunk driving epidemic.

What a joke.

Details here.

What an insult to families whose relatives have been killed by drunk drivers who have, despite their numbing grief, pleaded with legislators to really get serious about curbing drunk driving in Wisconsin.

Assembly members are leaving virtually intact the Wisconsin provision - - unique among the 50 states - - that allows a first conviction to be a ticketing matter only, with the new wrinkle that it becomes a misdemeanor only if there is a passenger under 16 years old in the car.

Big deal. So it's still not to be a crime to drive drunk with your 17-year-old cousin in the car, and get pulled over as a first-time offender?

Your grandmother in the car? Or your uncle, or your best friend as you're driving someone to church, or the dentist, to dinner, or home from a restaurant, sporting event, Summerfest, etc?

Why the official tolerance for some drunken driving?

The so-called reform package also establishes some 4th convictions as a felony - - again, with many states already designating felony charges for a a second or third offense - - but only if the fourth occur within five years of the third.

So many 4th offenses will continue to be misdemeanors.

Right now, it takes a fifth offense to be a felony in Wisconsin - - right at the top of the chart of states' offense ratings.

All the language parsing and finely-drawn exceptions and exemptions keep more drunk drivers on the road, and without true consequences landing on them as early as possible.

What this bill does is serve the alcohol lobbies and impaired drinkers - - it's as if they drew up the bill - - not the vast majority of people who drive sober, and don't hang around at fundraisers, and don't make whiny excuses about the Wisconsin drinking culture rendering them powerless to find their backbones and do something modestly substantial.

The Assembly bill is an embarrassment - - because every alcoholic will tell you, and I know a few who are now in recovery - - that they drove drunk often, sometimes everyday, thus were repeat offenders many many times before their first so-called "first offense."

So to our state legislators:

After the fake and self-serving celebrations in the Assembly are over, and once the Senate falls into line, you will have produced little impact on drunk driving in Wisconsin because the laws you continue to validate - - and now, even worse, under the guise of "reform" - - enable offenders to keep our roads unsafe.

Legislators who cannot stand up to special interests and overcome their own weird tolerance for risky behavior will end up with blood on their hands; the data being what they are, and with Wisconsin leading the nation in drunk driving, the first victims of this legislative surrender will be identified a mere few hours after the voting and back-slapping and rationalizing about this so-called reform effort is over.

[By the way, props to AM620 WTMJ conservative talk show host Jeff Wagner for continuing to take a hard line on this issue and to call out legislative members of both parties for failing to show leadership on this issue,]


James Rowen said...

To Anonymous: I am using a new laptop with a touch pad (my PC died) and I accidentally deleted your comment about the legislature. Pls. resend. My error, unintentionally. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Mr.Rowen. These legislators don't really care about our safety or our kids. They're just concerned about the money they put in their deep pockets. I don't think that these idiots will ever wake up and get a clue.
Thank you for the information.

Anonymous said...

Wisconsin does not "tolerate" a certain amount of drunk or impaired driving. According to the Wis DOT, 92% of individuals cited for OWI are convicted. The prohibited BAC for most drivers is 0.08, for those convicted 3 times or more it drops to 0.02. The so-called "Baby Luke Law" prohibits driving with illegal drugs in one's blood, and the OWI law prohibits driving with prescription drugs that impair one's ability to drive. OWI penalties are already stiff, more than stiff enough to deter any thinking individual. Those addicted to drugs or alcohol are special cases. Of course they should not drive impaired; of course they should be able to know it is wrong to do so; and society has the duty to take action so that they don't harm others. But the focus on punishment is misguided. Leave the penalties alone, step up the public service announcements, enforcment efforts, and treatment programs. These are more effective and cheaper in the long run.