Gov. Walker signs bill to toughen restrictions for convicted drunk drivers

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – Governor Walker signed eight new bills into law Friday, one focuses on tightening restrictions for convicted drunk drivers.

Cropped Photo James Palinsad Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Drunk driving is an issue nationwide and continues to threaten the safety of communities in Wisconsin. Some say it’s because drinking is a part of the state’s culture. “When we come to Wisconsin and we come to our local communities we find that drinking is really a part of the culture," said Officer Kyle Roder of the Eau Claire Police Department.

In a push to keep roads safer, Governor Walker signed a bill into law that addresses interlock ignition devices, which are required for serious drunk driving offenders. The device stops the offender’s vehicle from starting if the person’s blood alcohol level is above a legal limit.

State Representative Jim Ott is a co-author of the bill and says it was needed to ensure current laws in effect are being enforced the way they were intended to. After a drunk driving conviction, an offender’s license may be suspended for a period of time. If an offender is court-ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle, current law requires the device to be installed when the offender’s license is reinstated. But Lawmakers say some find a loophole.

"Some OWI offenders will drive their cars before their license is reinstated, but if their stopped for driving with a suspended license...they wouldn’t be cited for driving without the interlock because it wouldn’t be required to be installed until the license was reinstated," said Representative Ott.

The new law will require the device be installed immediately when the person is convicted. While tightening drunk driving laws may be a step towards keeping everyone safe, law enforcement says it may take more than that. “It's a community issue. It’s not a police issue, it’s not something that the police can fix, its not something laws can fix. People need to take responsibility for their actions. We have a number of things that you can do instead of drinking and driving now," says Officer Roder.

The new bill also restricts offenders from driving any vehicle not equipped with an interlock device, whether they own it or not. Governor Walker’s office tells WEAU 13 News this bill is about making our roads safer for everyone who uses them.

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