December 18, 2014

Lawmakers aim to prevent drunken driving

Six separate OWI bills would strengthen Wisconsin drunken driving laws.

The bills are authored by Mequon Representative Jim Ott and River Hills Senator Alberta Darling. One bill (AB-68/SB-58) would make first-time drunken driving a criminal misdemeanor, if a driver’s blood alcohol level is .15 or higher.

Ott says a first offense OWI is often looked upon as a mistake, and the mindset is that the offender shouldn’t be penalized too harshly. But Ott disagrees. “Studies have shown that by the time somebody is stopped for OWI the first time they may have driven impaired as many as 70 or 80 times. First time offenders are also responsible for a significant number of alcohol-related crashes, including instances in which persons are injured or killed.”

AUDIO: Ott says an average of 200 people die on Wisconsin roads each year, and all those deaths were 100 percent preventable.

A woman whose son was killed in a drunken driving crash testified before the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Sue Dohm of Prairie du Sac says the drunken driver was sentenced to three years in prison and will be out soon, but her son Davy is gone forever. “In 2015 Davy will still be dead.” Dohm gets emotional while remembering her son, “Davy was only 36. He had a lot of living to do yet.”

AUDIO: Portion of Sue Dohm’s testimony :34

Another OWI bill (AB-72/SB-61) would let authorities seize the vehicles of third or higher offense OWI suspects, and a third measure (AB-67/SB-57) would require all first-time offenders to appear in court. Some lawmakers question the effectiveness of the legislation. Representative

Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) says he wants to help, but it’s important to be smart about it. He says emotional reaction to criminal behavior puts people in prison but it costs taxpayers a lot of money. Three other OWI bills had public hearings earlier this month.