The following is a statement from Senator Chris Larson on submitting the Drunk Driving Prevention Act for formal introduction to the state Legislature today.
“As the holiday season rolls on, my Democratic colleagues and I are reintroducing legislation to take a much needed step towards shutting the door on drunk driving in our state.
“On Christmas Eve 1998, I woke up to find out that my good friend, and classmate at Thomas More High School, Jennie, had been killed by a drunk driver the night before. It was a devastating blow to each of her friends and everyone who knew her. It was a horrible, preventable tragedy and something that shaped each of our lives going forward. Unfortunately, with 178 deaths related to drunk driving in 2014, stories like this are too common in Wisconsin.
“With nearly 26% of adults admitting to driving while intoxicated, Wisconsin continues to top the national charts with the highest rate of drunk driving. Alarmingly, first-time OWI offenders are estimated to have driven under the influence at least 80 times before their initial conviction.
“The use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) has shown to be successful in changing offenders’ behavior. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ignition interlock devices reduce drunk driving recidivism by 67% when they are installed on vehicles of offenders. These devices separate drinking from driving, and are proven effective in stopping drunk driving. This legislation’s purpose is to increase the accountability of offenders in order to change the culture and behavior of drinking and driving in Wisconsin.
“Though the use of IIDs was expanded in the past for first-time offenders to include drivers with high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher, we can go further to ensure safe driving on Wisconsin roadways. The legislation we are offering today will mandate that all drivers convicted of an OWI must install an IID, no matter what their BAC level.
“It’s time that we do more to change the drinking culture of Wisconsin in order to stop the preventable fatalities, injuries, and property loss caused by drunk drivers.”