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Report: Deadly Wisconsin OWI crashes down, drunk driving remains a problem

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The report from the Legislative Reference Bureau came out last month. It tracked deadly Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) crashes, OWI arrests, and OWI rates from 2004 to 2018. The report shows numbers for all are dropping. 

(The Center Square) – The number of people killed in drunk driving crashes in Wisconsin is down from the first few years of this century, but a new report says drunk driving in the state continues to be a problem.

The report says there were 40,014 OWI convictions in 2004. By 2018, that number fell to 22,294. The number of deadly OWI crashes was at nearly 300 in 2004, a tragic statistic that has fallen to 160 fatalities by 2018. 

“The OWI problem in Wisconsin has improved in recent years,” the study’s authors wrote. “But it remains a serious challenge to our state.”

Wisconsin’s problem with drunk driving is a statewide issue, but the reports notes there are areas where drunk driving is particularly problematic. 

The report says there is no one single reason for the drop in arrests or deadly crashes, but does say that better recognition of the dangers of drunk driving and new penalties have helped. 

The report also looks at the possible penalties for drunk driving in Wisconsin. A first time OWI conviction is a civil matter, which, in other words, is little more than a traffic ticket. Repeat drunk drivers don’t face mandatory jail or prison time until their fifth OWI conviction in Wisconsin. 

“Alcohol related crashes per capita are highest in northern and central Wisconsin,” the report notes. 

“New legislation may also be needed,” the report states in its conclusion. “Recent changes in state law have provided new sanctions and established an intricate framework for preventing and addressing the consequences of the OWI problem. Despite these advancements, it is clear that it will ultimately take the concerted action of many institutions and individuals to achieve what all hold as a shared goal: a sustained reduction in instances of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.”

The report’s authors suggest that may be part of why drunk driving remains a problem in Wisconsin. 

 
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By Benjamin Yount | The Center Square
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Reposted with permission