NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Wisconsin will again consider toughening its most-lax-in-the-nation drunk driving laws. Rep. Jim Ott and Sen. Alberta Darling will re-submit a bill that died in committee last session. The changes: a third-time offense would be considered a felony with mandatory jail time; a first time offense would become a criminal matter, not a non-criminal violation, if the driver’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit (or .15).
Anything is an improvement over the way things are now.
Both of these changes would still leave us with the most-lenient drinking and driving laws in the nation. And both will face enough opposition in the legislature that they’ll likely be watered down if they are ever to come up for votes.
Almost everyone in Wisconsinis a casual drinker. And, unfortunately, our laws are set up so people can have a few at a bar or picnic, and still drive home. I find the ‘drunk-as-a-skunk’ first-timer provisions to be curious. It creates an entirely new category of drunk drivers. It also sets a non-criminal-violation safety zone for first time offenders (between .08 and .15), and no one should be behind the wheel at those levels and think their only consequence would be a ticket.
Sadly, our legislature isn’t serious about solving the drunk driving problem. Sadder still, it’s because too many of our lawmakers’ constituents would violate the law if it were toughened up.
The only good news I can offer about the drunk driving issue is that there are market forces that are now in-play. Wisconsin is now a mandatory-insurance state; and the cost of having insurance is prohibitively high for anyone with an OWI against their license. You may only get a ticket – but your insurance premiums may triple. Allstate, Geico, and Progressive will be more serious about stopping our drunk-drivers than our lawmakers are. That’s a sad situation, indeed.