Curbing our drinking and driving problem

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Greg Peck
January 10, 2013

It’s a new legislative session, and two lawmakers want to toughen Wisconsin’s drunken driving penalties. This will be the subject of The Gazette’s editorial Friday.

As the state Legislature starts its new session, two Republican lawmakers want harsher penalties for drunken drivers. Mequon Rep. Jim Ott and River Hills Sen. Alberta Darling propose making a third drunken driving offense a felony. They would also make first-time offenders with blood-alcohol levels of 0.15 guilty of a crime.

No doubt, Wisconsin has a problem. Drunken drivers killed an average of 220 people in Wisconsin each year from 2002 to 2011. More than 50,000 have suffered injuries in those years. That should surprise no one when you consider that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Wisconsin leads the nation in binge drinking—downing five or more drinks in one sitting. Almost one-fourth of us do this at least once a month.

Does the Ott-Darling proposal stand a chance of passing? Does it go far enough? Would the incarceration price make it cost-prohibitive? What other measures might make more sense?

We’ll share our perspectives in our editorial Friday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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