Tuesday, March 23, 2010

OWIs - When will we have enough?

It seems like almost every day there is another article about someone being arrested for their fourth or fifth OWI. Every time I read such an article, I am sickened that Wisconsin refuses to crack down on this dangerous behavior. These people are a danger to others on the road, and they are a danger to themselves.

Oh, and by the way, OWIs when boating and snowmobiling don't currently show upon your driver's license and aren't counted towards your auto-driving convictions. Legislators are working to change that, backed by the Snowmobile Association. (Thanks to them for that sane stance.)

When I tell friends from other states how lax our laws are, their mouths drop open. We are the only state in the US to not criminalize a first OWI. We only recently tightened laws on multiple OWIs, but we are still far behind other states. And everyone knows it, and accepts it. The Tavern League decries tightening OWI laws as an assault on our Wisconsin  culture. Even lawmakers have a "there but for the grace of god go I" attitude. The argument over whether Jeff Woods should be expelled from the Legislature should not even be happening, because Rep Woods, or any other legislator caught multiple times driving after drinking should have the decency to resign.

Now don't get me wrong, I have no problem with people enjoying a few fermented or malted beverages, but everyone should know when to say when, and no one should be stupid enough to get caught twice, much less five times. Either stop drinking while you are still able to drive, or don't drive, take your pick.

Of course, part of the problem is the fact that we don't have ways of getting home from the bars without driving, but lack of transportation alternatives, our reliance on cars, and our attitudes that driving is a constitutional right is another story and blog post.

My solution, in order to not fill our jails with non-violent offenders: First offense - mandatory interlock device on your car, and restriction on driving for six months. To and from work only. Second offense - lose your license for a year and a big fine (or community service if you don't have money.) Can't get to work? Maybe that possibility would make people think before drinking and driving. Also, mandatory alcohol treatment program. Third offense - lose your license forever. You are never able to drive again legal, for the rest of your life. Your car is auctioned off by the state as a seizure in the commission of a crime. Every offense after the third entails seizure of the car used, even if it belongs to someone else. Anyone that gets caught three times isn't unlucky, they have a serious problem, and should not be on the road.

A friend just returned from Sweden. The acceptable blood alcohol level when driving? 0.0. Absolute sobriety. And alcohol is very expensive as well. They used to have a very serious alcohol problem, but now people are careful and simply don't drink and drive on the same night. Other European countries have similar laws.

I'm not suggesting absolute sobriety, but when are we going to get serious about multiple offenses? When am I going to not open the paper every day to another headline about another 5-time offender?