Legislation has been introduced in the Wisconsin Assembly to modify present laws to the extent that a mandatory jail term is imposed after the fourth drunken driving violation.
There is no doubt that driving drunk has killed many here in Wisconsin. Records show that an average of more than 200 people have been killed annually in Wisconsin by drunken drivers over the past 10 years. That means more than 2,000 needless and tragic deaths in the past decade, most of whom were not the drunken driver but the innocent drivers of other vehicles, children, pedestrians, cyclists. Just think, those 2,000 victims could easily populate a small Wisconsin village or town. Imagine a small town near you, wiped out of existence.
The bill proposed by a thoughtful member of the Wisconsin Assembly is a step in the right direction, but I fear that it does not go far enough to be effective.
Although it is an improvement on the present laws that do little to discourage drunken driving, but if state law still gives the violating driver three chances before mandating jail time it will not discourage drivers determined to drink and drive.
In addition, many more patrol officers are needed to maintain closer supervision of suspected drivers. A modest and long overdue tax increase on beer and liquor, similar to the one that failed to pass in 2010 would do much to finance enforcement of drunken driving laws and help significantly lower the number of deaths by drunk drivers.
Of course the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate will face the wrath of the Tavern League and the Wisconsin breweries, including out of state support, but if our state government has the needed mettle, they would have the opportunity to save many of their constituent’s lives.
It is inconceivable that our lawmakers would knowingly risk the lives of our citizens by failing to act. I suggest fair and just legislation.
For a first offense, there should be mandatory incarceration along with heavy fines and a suspended license for a length of time. The second offense should carry a longer incarceration, a larger fine, stiffer fines. The third offense could be charged as a felony with corresponding sentence. Alcohol counseling should be mandatory.
It is time the rights of potential victims are considered. The suggested tax would only add a few pennies to a drink and the tax has not been raised in decades. And will not affect the budget.
It’s time to protect our children, sober drivers and passengers from this highway scourge. Should our lawmakers be too timid to impose this tax, then I suggest it be a priority budget item that will save hundreds if not thousands of lives.