The following editorial appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday, Jan. 22:
Lawmakers are beginning a new session at the state Capitol in Madison wondering if more can be done about drunken driving.
“It’s going to be an issue of what’s our priority for the session,” said Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere. “It’s always frustrating to see how difficult it can be to get new OWI laws passed.”
Jacque wants to require wider use of devices that prevent the vehicles of OWI offenders from starting unless the driver is sober.
Other good ideas include making a first offense for operating while intoxicated a misdemeanor crime, with a requirement to spend a night in jail and show up in court.
And to help pay for more prevention, including treatment for alcohol abuse, the Legislature should increase Wisconsin’s teensy tax on beer, wine and other alcohol.
Wisconsin had 24,000 convictions for drunken driving offenses in 2015, while alcohol-related crashes killed 190 people and injured nearly 2,900.
If that’s not enough evidence for further action by the Legislature, here are 10 more reasons from just the last month:
1. Brysen D. Wills, 33, of Waunakee, was charged Dec. 30 for driving the wrong way on Interstate 94 in Dane County at 93 mph with an alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit. He crashed into two vehicles, killing four people, according to a criminal complaint.
2. Steven Johnson, 52, of Fond du Lac, was charged with his 11th drunken driving offense on New Year’s Day in Appleton. Despite 10 previous convictions, his license was reinstated in July.
3. Ross C. Cotter-Brown, 31, of Edgerton, pleaded guilty Jan. 6 to driving while intoxicated in Middleton, where he ran a red light and hit and injured two girls, 12 and 13, who were in the crosswalk. He is already serving time for a fourth drunken-driving conviction.
4. Shane Hendrix, 40, of Madison, was arrested Jan. 8 on the East Side for his alleged fifth drunken driving offense. Police say they found him slumped over his steering wheel.
5. Clarence F. Gage, 73, of Sauk County, was sentenced Jan. 10 for his ninth drunken driving offense.
6. Anthony Stiklestad, 38, of Janesville, was arrested for his fourth alleged drunken driving offense last Sunday after nearly colliding with a state trooper on the interstate near McFarland.
7. Jon Lund, 51, of Oregon, was arrested for his alleged fifth drunken driving offense last Sunday after driving his van into oncoming traffic and hitting a car along West Washington Avenue in Madison, police said.
8. Marcus Freeman, 32, of Madison, was accused of drunken driving after he crossed into oncoming traffic Tuesday night on Highway 30 in Madison, striking a vehicle head on and causing injuries, police said.
9. Jeffrey Loresch, 35, of Madison, was stopped Wednesday in the town of Blooming Grove for his alleged fourth OWI offense.
10. Matthew Roberts and Amanda Trainor, both of Madison, were accused of driving different cars while drunk on the East Side Friday. Roberts’ vehicle struck a light pole, police said. He then got in a vehicle driven by Trainor, who was stopped for being intoxicated.
On and on it goes, with state leaders far too slow to respond.