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Wisconsin Needs Tougher Drunk Driving Laws

January 4, 2013

This morning national news was made when a United States Senator met the effects of  his drunk driving.

Sen. Mike Crapo has pled guilty to a drunken driving charge. His license will be suspended for one year, he will have to complete an alcohol rehabilitation program and will be fined $250. A 180-day jail sentence has been suspended on the condition of good behavior.

Wisconsin might want to consider how others handle the problems of drunk driving since we have so many alcohol related issues, along with the dreaded side effects.

At least 220 people have been killed in alcohol-related crashes in Wisconsin every year between 2002 and 2011.  More than 51,000 people have been injured over that  span.  No matter how you dice the statistics those numbers are just unacceptable.

Wisconsin can start to get tough on drunk drivers in the way that Crapo was dealt with, if we choose to.  Not only does the citizenry need to demand changes, but elected officials need to find their political spine and vote for new laws.

There are efforts underway by two Republican legislators to make the penalty for drunk driving more in line with the seriousness of the crime.  As such State Representative Jim Ott along with Senator Alberta Darling deserve our thanks for trying again this session to criminalize certain first-time offenses, make a third drunk driving offense a felony, and establish mandatory minimum sentences for drivers who cause crashes.  These are not as complete a set of changes as are needed, but would be a major step in the correct direction.

Anywhere else in the nation these proposals would be called common-sense legislation, but in Wisconsin due to the Tavern League these proposals are likely never to see the desk of Governor Walker.

How this lobbying group can strangle sound and wise legislation aimed at making the roads safer from drunk drivers shows the power money has in politics.  Too many of the elected offices in Madison care more about not riling up the Tavern League than they do in making the roads safe for the vast majority of their constituents who understand the need for tougher drunk driving laws.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2013 7:10 PM

    When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you did not have laws, what would you do to reduce drunk driving? We could deal with drunk driving like we do with marijuana users. We could lock them up for years.
    I think we need a different approach to cultural problems. Tough laws are not always the solution. Progressively tougher laws, less so. The threat of worse punishment is not always a deterrent. I tried it on children with mixed results. The longer the time between act and discipline, the less thought there was about the severity of the punishment. And when drinking, there is less thinking about consequences. I speak from experience on that.

  2. Patrick J. McGrth permalink
    January 4, 2013 5:10 PM

    I disagree with changes for first time offenders. Many if not most first time offenders are people who were out to eat and are slightly over the .08 level. Anyone can make a mistake once. The current penalties are substantial for first time offenders and when you take into consideration what a first conviction does to insurance rates, it is even more substantial. Where changes need to be made are for second and subsequent offenses. We read in the paper all of the time about people who are on their 3rd, 4th, or even 9th offense. These type offenders need to have substantial penalties that take them off the road.

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