Hixson: Make people think twice before they drink and drive
If you go
What: Drunken Driving Prevention Listening Session
When: 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14
Where: UW-Rock County, Kirk Denmark Theater Wells Cultural Center
JANESVILLE Rep. Kim Hixson has heard the excuses: People caught driving drunk aren’t bad people; they just made mistakes.
But he knows all too well what can come of a “mistake” like that.
When the Whitewater Democrat was 18, his girlfriend was killed by a drunken driver.
“She was hit head-on in her car,” he said. “It was actually 10 days before her 18th birthday … It’s just so darn unfair, basically, that someone’s life can be ripped away just because of someone else’s total irresponsibility.”
He wants to stop hearing the tragic statistics: how 13,000 people are killed each year in drunken driving crashes, or how every 88 minutes, someone in Wisconsin is killed or injured in an alcohol-related crash.
Hixson supports several legislative proposals aimed at reducing intoxicated driving, and he’s holding a listening session Monday to explain why.
Drunken driving has come under increased scrutiny in the past year after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a five-part series, “Wasted in Wisconsin,” in October. The All-Wisconsin Alcohol Risk Education coalition formed afterward to call for tougher drunken-driving laws and more awareness about alcohol abuse.
Proposed legislation includes:
n Requiring ignition interlocks on vehicles for repeat drunken drivers and first-time offenders who have a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 or more. Ignition interlocks require drivers to blow into them to prove they’re not intoxicated before driving.
n Making a fourth-offense intoxicated driving conviction a felony. Currently, drunken driving is a misdemeanor until the fifth offense.
“There’s just quite a few things that we can do to tighten up the law and hopefully make people think twice before they drink and drive,” Hixson said.
The listening session also will discuss a proposal to prohibit children under 18 from drinking in bars with their parents.
Hixson and state Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit, proposed the legislation at the urging of Edgerton residents, including Mayor Erik Thompson. A November article in the New York Times about drinking in Wisconsin started with a hypothetical description of teens drinking in an Edgerton bar.
“I just don’t think we need to have kids going out to bars when they’re 12 or 13 years old and having a drink,” Hixson said. “I think that that does send probably the wrong message as far as what our culture is.”
He said the legislation still would allow parents to serve their children alcohol at home. The listening session will feature Sheriff Bob Spoden, Coroner Jenifer Keach, representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and a trauma surgeon, Hixson said.
He hopes the session and the proposed legislation start to change Wisconsinites’ thinking about alcohol, he said.
“I think people really do need to kind of step back and say, ‘You know we’ve kind of accepted this type of behavior for too long, and we need to think differently about it,’” he said.