Wisconsin’s new drunk driving law is now in effect, with tougher penalties and an effort to get problem drinkers into treatment. State Senator Jim Sullivan, one of the principal authors, of Wisconsin Act 100, said the law represents a comprehensive approach to keeping the state’s roads safer. “We want to make sure that we’re focusing not just on getting your repeat drunk driver off the road, but getting your first or second time drunk driver, which is the majority of offenders, into treatment to address some of those alcoholism and addiction issues,” said Sullivan.
Act 100 requires installation of Ignition Interlock Devices all repeat offenders, and for first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher. Still, Sullivan noted there’s only so much the legislature can do. “People are going to spend a substantial amount of time behind bars,” as a result of the new law, he said. “But, for us to really say that we’ve succeeded in this, this is an issue that has to be addressed by each and every one of us, because the problem ends up being us . . . our neighbors, friends and co-workers.” Sullivan said that while there are additional law enforcement and prosecution costs with the new law, the real cost is “the carnage on our streets.” He expects the tougher penalties will decrease the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers.
The new law, which Governor Jim Doyle signed in December, also makes fourth-offense OWI a felony if the driver has a previous OWI-related conviction within the past five years, criminalizes first-offense OWI if a child is in the vehicle, and expands statewide a successful Winnebago County treatment options program.