Repeat drunk drivers remain a persistent problem in Wisconsin

Multiple OWI convictions remain persistently high in Wisconsin, with some blaming lax state laws.

Driving while intoxicated is not just illegal, it is also one of the most dangerous things any motorist can do. Drunk driving causes thousands of car accidents across the country each year, killing thousands of people and tearing apart countless numbers of families. In Wisconsin, the dangers posed by drunken drivers are very real. As the Twin Cities Pioneer Press recently reported, convictions for multiple OWI convictions in the state remain high, with many counties actually reporting an increase in repeat drunken drivers. While the causes behind the figures are debatable, some analysts say Wisconsin's relatively lax OWI laws are sending the wrong message to motorists.

Repeat OWI convictions

A look at state Department of Transportation data shows that the number of people convicted of their fifth or greater OWI in 2014 was 822, up slightly from the 819 convictions across the state in 2013. Furthermore, over half of Wisconsin counties saw either no change or an increase in such convictions last year compared with their five-year averages.

Analysts say that most people who are actually convicted of an OWI have already driven while intoxicated multiple times before they are finally caught. For people who have five or more OWI convictions, the number of times they may have already been on the road while drunk, but were not actually apprehended, can be a frightening thought.

Tougher laws needed?

It's difficult to say why repeat drunk driving remains such a persistent and, in some cases, growing problem in Wisconsin. Some lawmakers, however, say part of the issue lies with the state's OWI laws themselves. Wisconsin, for example, is the only state that still considers a first-offense OWI to be a traffic citation rather than a crime. That relatively lax approach, critics say, sends the wrong message to drivers that driving while intoxicated is not an overly serious offense.

Efforts to correct the problem by introducing tougher laws, however, have been frustrated in the past. Currently, as USA Today reports, there are two OWI bills before state lawmakers, both of which would increase penalties for repeat offenders. However, due to political concerns and a shorter legislative session, the prospect of even those bills getting passed appears slim.

Drunk driving accidents

Whether as a first offense or a sixth offense, drunk driving is always inexcusable. As one of the leading causes of death and injury on Wisconsin's roads and highways, it is important that drunk drivers be held accountable for their actions. Anybody who has been injured in a crash that may have been caused by an intoxicated or otherwise negligent driver should contact a personal injury attorney right away. Accident victims will be able to rely on the advice and guidance that only an experienced attorney can provide in order to know what steps to take next when dealing with the fallout of a serious accident.