Wisconsin, home of a dangerous, “drink Wisconsibly” culture, has a huge problem on its hands: repeat OWI offenders. The views on the drunk driving laws in the state vary, but, most people agree that more can be done to stop the number of offenders that have upwards of four OWI offenses, a chronic problem that has also named Wisconsin as the worst state in the country for drunk driving fatalities.
Many of the state’s residents believe the problem of repeat OWI offenders may start with the first time a person is issued a citation for drinking and driving, as a first-offense OWI can be nothing more than a traffic ticket. One obvious solution to the problem is to criminalize first-time OWI offenses, instead of treating them as no more dangerous than speeding. Because of the lenient OWI laws, the first time a person is cited for operating while intoxicated he or she may take the incident less seriously. A person with a misdemeanor charge could officially be a criminal and the weight of that realization might just be enough to stop him or her from driving drunk in the future.
With strengthening the penalties for a first-offense OWI, repeat OWI offenders would also have to face stricter penalties. Currently, it isn’t until a fourth OWI conviction that a person is considered a felon, and again, those OWIs may not be taken seriously until faced with losing the right to vote, own a gun or obtain a passport. On the other hand, requiring ignition interlock devices for all OWI offenders could quickly reduce the number of repeat OWI offenders in Wisconsin, as the devices don’t allow anyone to drink and drive.
The problem of repeat OWI offenders in Wisconsin has the attention of the entire country, and with each OWI panel discussion and legislative change, the dangers of driving in the state can be reduced. By changing “drink Wisconsibly” into a statement of responsible drinking, we can all rest easier and enjoy the best aspects of Wisconsin’s culture.