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Are Wisconsin Drunk Driving Laws Working?

July 9, 2013

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The image of Wisconsin as a beer-soaked state with numerous drunk drivers is not one that I find comforting.  It is hard not to notice almost daily the news reports of intoxicated drivers being arrested, and when the whole story is heard it is not uncommon to find the driver also had a raft of other operating while intoxicated arrests.  Clearly for all the tough talk that legislators are known for when it comes to drunk driving there is still a long ways to go before serious remedies are applied that make it clear the public is no longer interested in what is happening on our roads.

Over the past three days local news has been filled with stories about drunks who thought it their right to get behind the steering wheel.  This should trouble us all, including those under the dome in Madison who are beholden to the campaign cash given by the Wisconsin Tavern League.  If we were truly tough on the very first OWI in Wisconsin, (which we are not!) and made it clear there is a line that must never be crossed with drinking and driving, many of these types of reports would be lessened.

Here is a sample of what was out on our roads over the past days.

A Windsor man was arrested on third-offense operating while intoxicated charges Saturday night around 11:30 following a traffic stop.  A Dane County Sheriff’s deputy observed a motorcycle driven by Cody W. Val Alstine on Lake Road at State Highway 19 operating recklessly by popping a wheelie.

A Janesville man was arrested Saturday following a traffic stop on fifth offense felony operating while intoxicated.   A vehicle driven by Jeremy M. Maurer was traveling southbound on North US Highway 51 at a high rate of speed.  Police said there was strong odor of intoxicants and the driver’s speech was slurred during the traffic stop.  The drunk admitted to drinking alcohol!

Peter Horton was arrested on felony OWI charges, after they went looking for him following a domestic incident. Deputies said they administered a standard field sobriety test and arrested Horton for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated-fifth offense.

And then there is this bizarre story, but one that is all too common.

A Madison man was arrested on charges of his fourth OWI after being stopped by a Madison police sergeant near Olbrich Beach, according to a release.

A Madison police sergeant noticed a vehicle that had turned into Olbrich Beach Parking lot in the 3400 block of Atwood Avenue around 2:34 a.m. July 1 during a routine patrol, according to the release.

Dmitriy Tur, 30, exited the vehicle before the sergeant could contact him but when contact was made, Tur denied driving the vehicle, according to the release.

Officials said Tur mentioned another person was operating the car he was inside but Tur was alone.

Field sobriety tests were performed because of Tur’s confusion and he was taken to Dane County Jail on charges of his fourth OWI offense, according to the release.

Tur blamed the sergeant for ruining everything for him, according to the release.

Unbelievable.

This type of post could be written every week with a new set of names and incidents, and we are to somehow think this is acceptable in our society, that nothing can be done.  I think we need leaders at the state capitol who will stand up to the Tavern League, and demand that this state get serious with drunk drivers.  I know my fellow citizens would agree.

2 Comments
  1. Alinka permalink
    July 10, 2013 9:58 AM

    hear , hear.. Don’t pour salt on our wounds, dear Californian brothers, even though its very much justified 🙂 We do have a terrible culture of drunk driving and instead of social stigma such behavior should carry, many people are, de facto, permissive.

    Tell you a story, I’ve personally heard strange rationalizing from a fellow in Green Bay area “well, we live in a tiny town, me and the boys have to get home from a bar somehow, there is almost never any cars on the road. And -wink, wink- the sheriff is my second cousin”

    I kid you not. (palm, forehead) That ‘no traffic and cousin’ situation worked great for after bar trips up until a tree jumped in front , smashed his bumper and (only) knocked off front teeth, that lucky bastard.

    Also losing a young neighbor a couple years ago to a drunk driver going wrong way on I 94 in Milwaukee, I second Dek’s words, laws ought to be much tougher.

  2. July 9, 2013 12:56 PM

    Your Governor recently vetoed the commercial bail bond law, an action I didn’t understand since ALEC supported it and it permits private corporations to further bleed the public. One would think that Walker would approve. I wonder if his unwillingness to implement this law has to do with the Tavern League’s unwillingness to permit reasonable drunk-driver laws. In my state if you are pulled over and the officer can show you’re impaired, then you go to jail for a minimum of an overnight stay. The county can hold you for up to 72 hours, but most people get out ASAP by posting bail. My state also has a thriving bail bondsman industry, an industry I despise almost as much as the payday check cashing businesses that Wisconsin encourages. Still, many–perhaps most–people don’t have the cash available to post a bond to get out of jail after a DUI bust so the bondsman is meeting a need.

    Data show that “drive drunk, go to jail” works better than Wisconsin’s system. For example:
    – Wisconsin 2011 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities per 100,000 Population = 3.4
    – California 2011 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities per 100,000 Population = 2.1

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