Would sobriety checkpoints curb drunk driving?

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunken driving in the Nation. One of the reason a state lawmaker is hinting at a proposal for sobriety checkpoints in the Wisconsin.

“I love this state and I love its people, but one of our black marks is this culture is driving drunk,” said Eau Claire County Republican Chair Brian Westrate.

“We do have a lot of folks hurt and killed because of drunk driving, and we need to start doing something. We've got to start thinking outside of the box,” said Democrat State Representative of 91st Assembly District, Dana Wachs.

Both democrats and republicans agree- Wisconsin’s drunk driving has to end. But it's the solution to the problem where the opinions differ.

Democratic Milwaukee State Senator Tim Carpenter has suggested adding sobriety checkpoints. Right now, they're outlawed in the state.
It’s an idea that immediately got mixed reviews.

“We live in the society where police officers don't just get to stop people because they may be doing something wrong. That's not how I think we want to do things here, in Wisconsin,” said Westrate.

Westrate says there are far better ways of stopping drunk drivers.
They include stiffening the penalties for driving drunk, raising awareness, and using saturation patrol.

“Park out in front of a bar at 2 a.m. You’ll catch some drivers!” said Westrate.

38-other states have sobriety checkpoints right now. They involve a process that only lasts a minute in some cases, but that's a minute not everyone is willing to spare.

“The government through the arm of police has no right to take that minute from you, unless they have some reasonable suspicion that you've committed a crime,” said Westrate.

“ I've represented people that have lost their lives, all of their minutes, because of a drunk driver. One minute lost at a checkpoint, if we can save people from being killed, I think it makes some sense,” said Wachs.

No official bill on the sobriety checkpoint has been proposed at this time.


APPLETON, Wis. (AP) -- One Milwaukee lawmaker says he wants sobriety checkpoints to be part of Wisconsin's arsenal as the state tries to curb drunken driving.

But the Appleton Post-Crescent reports (http://post.cr/YUGvEL ) that many others feel the checkpoints infringe on civil rights.

Sobriety checkpoints are outlawed in Wisconsin, and were not part of a bipartisan set of bills designed to crack down on impaired driving.

Democratic Sen. Tim Carpenter says checkpoints might send a message to that small number of people who drive drunk. He says the state could ease into the checkpoints at first, by allowing police to operate them on days that are associated with drinking, such as St. Patrick's Day or New Year's Eve.

Republican Rep. Dean Kaufert of Neenah says he doesn't believe checkpoints are the answer.

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