Mothers Against Drunk Driving is giving Wisconsin a failing grade, saying the state doesn’t do enough to deter people from driving drunk or to clamp down on people with repeated offenses.
The anti-drinking group gave Wisconsin a 2-out-of-5 score in its latest rating, the Press-Gazette Media reported.
MADD said Wisconsin rates poorly because the state can’t force a driver suspected of a first drunken-driving offense to provide a blood sample. That’s because search warrants for blood samples in Wisconsin only apply in criminal cases, but Wisconsin classifies first-offense drunken driving as a traffic case.
In addition, because the penalties for first-offense drunken driving are so light, there’s less incentive for intoxicated drivers to stay off the roads, MADD said.
“Conservative estimates show that a first-time convicted OWI (operating while intoxicated) offender has driven drunk at least 80 times prior to being arrested,” the group said. “According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, a majority of drunk(en) driving deaths and injuries are caused by offenders with no prior convictions.”
MADD called upon Wisconsin lawmakers to expand the state’s uses of devices that prevent an intoxicated driver from starting a car. Currently, judges can only require an ignition-interlock device for first-time offenders whose blood-alcohol level was 0.15 percent or greater, or nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Some critics have argued against such devices, saying they can be circumvented. And some oppose having police conduct roadside checkpoints on the grounds that the searchers infringe upon a driver’s civil liberties.
But law enforcement officials generally support MADD’s contentions. They say too many drivers are willing to risk driving drunk because they think the penalties for a first offense are trivial.
“It’s important to reinforce the message: If you’re going to break the law, there needs to be consequences,” said Brown County Sheriff’s Capt. Randy Schultz.
MADD also gave Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa a 2 out of 5. Only Montana was rated lower.
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