Ericha S. Wisconsin

Wisconsin drunk driving laws are killing

My best friend was hit by a drunk driver driving home to see his family from college. The driver had 3 drunk driving offences already and this would have been her 4th. If we come together to change drunk driving laws in Wisconsin then there is a possibility that this will not happen to one of your loved ones.

Dear President of the United States,

Wisconsin, a state known for its delicious beer, as well as the only state that does not criminalize first-time drinking and driving offenses, as offenders are typically given a fine and released after they sober up. The Badger State also boasts the nation's highest level of binge drinking. Those incidents related to excessive alcohol cost an estimated $6.8 billion each year. That's $1,200 for every man, woman and child in the state, reports CBS New travel editor Peter Greenberg. On game day at the University of Wisconsin, Badger fans get an early start. There's no alcohol allowed in the stadium, so the party outside is in full swing before 10 a.m. Tailgates will happen all weekend across the country. "We have one of the biggest problems in the nation, and yet we have some of the fewest solutions to correct it," State Sen. Tim Carpenter said. Carpenter co-authored four of six bills this year to toughen drinking and driving laws. None have made it to the state senate for a vote. "The dirty secret is the assembly passed legislation last time, it came in front of the Senate transportation committee, but then Sen. Fitzgerald wouldn't schedule any of the bills," Carpenter said.

Scott Fitzgerald is majority leader of the state senate. "If you had everyone appear before the judge, it would be very difficult I think for the system to deal with that right now," Fitzgerald said. "What you just said, if I interpret the numbers correctly, that means there's so many people drunk out there, they can't handle the system," Greenberg said.

The second conviction of impaired driving should become a criminal offense punishable with mandatory jail time.

The third offense of impaired driving should be made a felony, rather than the fifth offense.

Repeat offenders should be required to install ignition interlock devices (IID’s) in all vehicles registered in their names, at their own expense. This also should be required of first-time offenders with extraordinarily high blood alcohol content (.16 or higher).

The law should be strengthened to the degree stated above because the incident statistics speak for themselves. In 2006, there were 305 alcohol-related deaths and 5,654 alcohol-related injuries on Wisconsin roads in which the driver had blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. Wisconsin Department of Transportation statistics show that alcohol plus alcohol/speed accounted for 41.6% of all fatal crashes in 2006, while alcohol alone accounted for 21.7% of all fatalities. Beyond death, pain and suffering, Wisconsin Traffic Crash Facts (page 27) shows that alcohol-related crashes in 2006 were responsible for 2.715 billion dollars in economic loss.

This leniency not only endangers pedestrians and drivers, it endangers road construction workers in work zones who are already at risk for accident and injury every day. In 2005, 1,074 people were killed in work zones across the country.

Wisconsin’s current drunk driving laws are contributing to cultural attitudes that do not embrace safety on the road. Impaired driving laws have long been so lax in Wisconsin that they have done little to prevent the actions of repeat offenders or discourage their behavior. This must change. ASSE members work on a daily basis to help create positive safety cultures in organizations and manage behavioral change necessary to achieve those cultures. Building a safety-minded culture involves clear understanding of problem behaviors, organized educational efforts and stiff consequences for non-compliance. It also requires strong leadership, which ASSE embodies and cultivates, to positively engage those who do not know the rules or think that rules should not apply to them. This kind of leadership is needed in Wisconsin.

The recent tragic incident in Oconomowoc, in which a three-time-convicted impaired driver killed an expectant mother and her 10-year-old daughter, has outraged the state. The current law sets the stage for more such tragedies, and the population of Wisconsin, especially myself will no longer tolerate these inadequate consequences for potentially deadly behavior. It is time to put teeth in the impaired driving laws and make them a true deterrent to help change the cultural acceptance of impaired driving.

We urge the Wisconsin state legislature to create laws that will adequately protect citizens, save more lives and create a safer environment for everyone that travels to and within Wisconsin.I am asking you Mr. President to use your voice and power of the media to raise awareness and pressure the state to change it’s behavior toward drunk driving laws. 

Wauwatosa West High School

Wauwatosa West American Public Policy

All juniors are enrolled in a required civics and public policy course called American Public Policy. The capstone project is the Issue Investigation - students identify an issue that can be solved by the creation, modification, elimination of a public policy. Student letters are their first research step in the Issue Investigation process.

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