A coalition of groups led by UW Health calls this week’s passage of tougher drunk driving measures a good first step. Lisa Maroney with the All-Wisconsin Alcohol Risk Education coalition, or AWARE, says the drunk driving legislation is good – but does too little to deal with first offenders. “It’s an important first step,” says Maroney. “Is there more to be done? Yes.”

“This bill really primarily goes after repeat offenders,” says Maroney. “We need to keep in mind that according to the Wisconsin DOT, over two-thirds of the serious and fatal alcohol crashes are committed by people with no prior OWIs.”

AWARE advocates for sobriety checkpoints, which are not in this bill. “What evidence will show is the number one deterrent to people driving drunk is the fear of being caught, and we think that’s exactly what sobriety checkpoints do,” Maroney says. AWARE also advocates for making third offense OWI a felony, and a beer tax increase, to pay for tougher penalties and more treatment.

In the meantime, the coalition is working to educate on the risks of drunk driving. “There’s no question that in this state, that is a part of what we do. We drink, and a lot of people drink and drive,” says Maroney. But she believes the acceptance of drunk driving can be changed. “That’s the way it was with smoking. People just smoked, and they smoked everywhere and they smoked heavily, and gradually we’ve seen a change with that.”

Bob Hague (:60) AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (:60 MP3)

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