Ignition interlock devices are a hot topic for debate, especially in Wisconsin. With the “beer culture” vibe of the state (many first-offense OWIs are treated as traffic violations), the restriction of an interlock can be culture-shocking. Wisconsin has a point: most OWI offenders have only driven under the influence of alcohol an estimated 80 times prior to their conviction. An ignition interlock device cannot do much until that person is caught, and if the OWI didn’t cause any harm, the offender will surely learn their lesson and drive responsibly from that point on.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in Wisconsin, or in any other state, really. That’s also why more states are adopting first-offense ignition interlock requirements for all drunk drivers.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me…
You get ONE chance in most states to learn responsible drinking behavior. The first time you are convicted of drunk driving, you have a criminal conviction at the very least, and a good chance at an ignition interlock requirement. Without a first-offense ignition interlock law, we are essentially allowing a drunk driver the chance to risk others’ lives on the road two times. With the strict ignition interlock law, we are sending a message about drunk driving, and following through with a “zero tolerance” device that doesn’t allow second chances at an OWI.
In cases like this woman who was recently arrested for her third OWI in Wisconsin, a strict ignition interlock law could have stopped her before she had a chance to steal that police cruiser. Because not only do interlocks prevent drunk driving, but they help drunk drivers learn better habits with alcohol and driving that last after the device is removed.
Fortunately, Wisconsin may soon see changes to its OWI laws and ignition interlock policies. With the success of all-offender interlock programs in states like Virginia, New York and Colorado, Wisconsin has a chance to save lives and keep the streets safe, while still enjoying the vibrant “beer culture” we’ve all come to appreciate.