Wisconsin has a terrible drunk driving record, and some legislators, pushed on by a whole chorus of angry citizenry and organizations, are actually trying to tighten our state's laws on the matter. Decker, of course, has a thing or two to say about that:
The Weston Democrat said in an interview Wednesday that making a third drunken driving offense a felony would be "too severe," while allowing sobriety checkpoints is undemocratic.I'm going to disagree with him on that one. Each time a person gets behind the wheel after tossing a few back, they put others in danger. I don't care if those instances are two weeks apart or two decades--it's the same danger. And if someone doesn't get the message that drinking and driving is unacceptable the first two times they get caught (not to mention all the times they do it without detection), then I think absolutely the third strike should be more severe.
"I just don't think stopping somebody without just cause is the way for us to work in a democracy," he said.
On third offense drunken driving, Decker said, "You could get one at 20 (years old), one at forty, and one at 60. That spans 40 years. Does that make you a felon? No."
I do agree that sobriety checkpoints smack of being undemocratic. The United States Supreme Court, in Michigan Department of State Police vs. Sitz, may have declared them to be constitutional, but it was on the somewhat dubious pretense of the slight Fourth Amendment infringement being outweighed by the good done for public safety. I haven't entirely made up my mind about this yet, but I can't help but feel like bending the safegaurds granted by the Constitution in the name of some unproven improvement in safety is a bit...wrongheaded.
But back to the issue of making a third OWI/DUI offense into a felony. Currently, Wisconsin has one of the worst drunk driving records in the nation, with 42 percent of all traffic fatalities involving an intoxicated driver. We read stories about people being arrested for their 6th, 7th, and even 8th offense. If some of those individuals had been charged with a felony on their third strike, it's far more likely that the subsequent incidents would have never occured.
Of the 1,010 drunken-driving arrests in 2008, a third were repeat offenders. Three of the arrests were for drivers racking up their ninth OWI arrests.This is, simply put, completely unacceptable. And while I recognize that there will always be those people who insist on getting behind the wheel after drinking a bit too much, I also recognize that a good way to significantly cut down on that risk is to a) impose stiffer and longer-lasting penalties on offenders so they can't reoffend, and b) impose stiffer and longer-lasting penalties so that more people will be put off from offending in the first place.
We need comprehensive, no-bullshit laws on the books for dealing with this issue. It's not partisan, it's personal, and it's in everyone's best interest to see that it's done. Making sure Russ Decker listens to us, and failing that, no longer gets to be Senate Leader (or even a senator), is a good step along the way.