WISCONSINREPORT.COM (05/27/08) - Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is urging Wisconsin lawmakers to address the state's drunk driving problem as they consider law reforms following the outcry from people demanding change. The outrage stems from the April 25, 2008 crash in Oconomowoc that killed a pregnant woman and her daughter by a repeat drunk driver. The offender, Mark Benson, had three prior OWI convictions and was driving impaired on prescription medication without a license when he slammed his SUV into the rear of Jennifer Bukosky's car, killing Jennifer, her unborn child and 10-year old daughter and injuring her son.
With Wisconsin ranked as the worst in the country for the number of alcohol-related fatalities (42 percent of all traffic fatalities involve a drunk driver), MADD says lawmakers need new strategies to combat this public health risk.
A team of bipartisan legislators are planning to draft legislation that addresses penalties for repeat offenders with three convictions, but MADD strongly believes effective legislation must include alcohol ignition interlocks and cover all drunk drivers, including those convicted for the first time, to make Wisconsin's roadways safer. Alcohol ignition interlocks prevent a convicted drunk driver from being able to start a vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol.
The majority of OWI homicides in Wisconsin are committed by offenders with no previous OWI convictions, and yet, legislators are only willing to get tough on repeat offenders. MADD members believe legislators need to introduce and pass laws that prevent those convicted for a first time from ever committing the crime again.
Wisconsin men, women and children shouldn't have to wait until a drunk driver has the opportunity to kill or injure loved ones before the state gets tough. Research shows that those convicted of drunk driving for the first time have driven drunk more than 87 times before their first arrest.
"Drunk driving is a serious crime that causes needless deaths, yet it can be prevented," said Kari Kinnard, Executive Director of MADD Wisconsin. "We need to continue treating this serious crime as fully preventable one. The technology and resources to save lives in Wisconsin exist, but our legislators need to introduce laws that put them to use," Kinnard said.
An alcohol ignition interlock is a breath test device linked to a vehicle's ignition system. When a driver wishes to start his or her vehicle, he or she must first blow into the device, but the vehicle will not start if the driver has alcohol in his or her system.
"Alcohol ignition interlocks are proven effective and are integral to our vision of eliminating drunk driving," said Glynn Birch, national president of MADD. "People continue to drive drunk because they can, but we now have the tools to stop them."
Alcohol ignition interlocks are up to 90 percent effective in preventing repeat offenses by convicted drunk drivers. MADD will continue to fight to require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, including those convicted for the first time, during this legislative session.
MADD's mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking. MADD is a 501(c) (3) charity with 2 million members and supporters nationwide. Founded in 1980, MADD has helped save more than 330,000 lives.