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SUNDAY FEEDBACK: Wisconsin needs tougher OWI laws, bigger cultural changes

4:11 PM, Feb. 27, 2013  |  Comments
A multi-jurisdictional task force to combat drunken driving is being launched in January. Handheld breath teaters will be used. Tuesday, December 28, 2010. Photo by H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette
A multi-jurisdictional task force to combat drunken driving is being launched in January. Handheld breath teaters will be used. Tuesday, December 28, 2010. Photo by H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette
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Each Wednesday afternoon, we post online a draft version of the next Sunday's editorial. We want to know what you think of it! Leave us your feedback in this story's, on our Facebook page, via Twitter by tweeting to @WDHOpinions or by emailing opinion@wdhprint.com.

We'll incorporate your feedback into the final version of the editorial, and we'll publish selections of the responses we get on Sunday. Share your thoughts by the end of the day Thursday for consideration.

Find the draft of our Sunday editorial below. We'll look forward to reading your reactions.

Time to update Wisconsin's drunken driving laws

Overnight on New Year's Eve, the Wausau Police Department arrested nine people on drunken driving charges. In our print edition on New Year's Day, Daily Herald Media published an item about a Wausau man facing felony charges after he was arrested for third-offense drunken driving with his child in the vehicle with him.

It has been about eight weeks since the beginning of the year. A review of police logs and other reports published by Daily Herald Media found 41 local arrests since then - much more than one every other day.

Two lawmakers, Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, are proposing new changes to the state's drunken driving laws. Among other policies, they have in their sights this big, outrageous target: A law that would finally end Wisconsin's distinction of being the only state in the nation that treats first-offense drunken driving as a traffic offense, not a crime.

The change is overdue. It's also insufficient. What Wisconsin needs most of all is a big, grassroots cultural changes that begin to make people less accepting of the dangerous, irresponsible practice that is drinking and driving - and of binge drinking itself.

But as part of a broad response to a huge social problem, stiffer drunken driving penalties, including making first offenses a crime, absolutely can be part of the solution.

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