Wisconsin isn’t known for being too tough on drunk drivers, and it seems the state plans to continue its alternative efforts, rather than listening to the authority on the subject: MADD. MADD’s annual report gave the state 1.5 stars for OWI prevention efforts, while pointing out effective ways to boost drunk driving prevention efforts.
We weren’t terribly surprised by the rating, especially since many first-offense Wisconsin OWI incidents are treated as traffic offenses, not criminal acts. Instead of considering the recommendations by MADD and the NTSB, like expanding ignition interlock access, Wisconsin could be coming for your vehicle, instead. Perhaps the message got lost in the holiday hustle over the last few weeks.
Lawmakers have been asked to allow courts to seize vehicles of repeat Wisconsin OWI offenders. Opponents say that those laws require too many resources and too much manpower. MADD says ignition interlock expansion reduces OWI risk, while allowing offenders the ability to keep driving, maintain employment and keep their lives together. Being able to drive, even with an ignition interlock, is still being able to drive, and at least we know they’re sober while doing so.
Having no vehicle to drive means it’s easy to borrow someone else’s vehicle, and without an interlock, we don’t know if that person is sober.
Currently, if a Wisconsin OWI offender’s license is suspended, they are required to wait out the suspension before reinstating their license. In many cases, reinstating those privileges means an offender is responsible for installing and maintaining an ignition interlock device – the only way we can all be sure they are no drinking and driving again. Granted, without a vehicle, it can be more difficult to get out on the road while intoxicated. But an interlock gives an offender an easier way to maintain their independence and the incentive to do so only if they’ve not been drinking.