As Wisconsin’s state senate reconvenes this fall, legislators and policymakers are bracing for another series of discussions regarding changes to the state’s drunk driving laws. Democrat senators promised earlier this year to initiate changes to state laws that govern alcohol consumption and driving. With the Democrats controlling most of the state legislature, plans to alter the present provisions are expected to push through without much opposition for Republican senators.
The senate Assembly is set to start Wednesday next week and lawmakers are expected to tackle a wide host of issues. However, leading Democrats in the senate are pushing for immediate changes to Wisconsin’s drunk driving laws. According to some legislators and safety experts, Wisconsin is the only state where the first-offense drunken driving incident is considered a traffic violation and not a crime. Even insurance experts say that the law makes it harder for providers to come up with proper insurance rates.
Speaker Mike Sheridan (D) said that the Assembly will attempt to vote on a comprehensive bill regarding drunken driving. The bill would make the fourth offense a felony, instead of the fifth. Repeat offenders would also be required to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles so law enforcement agencies can have better control over their cars.
Representatives from the insurance industry praised the planned changes, saying that the new provisions can reduce the risks of accidents by imposing tougher penalties on erring motorists. Doing so, they say, can help slash insurance premiums significantly. Insurers are also calling for the quick passage of the said bill, before a new law would require all motorists in the state to have insurance. Providers say that having better drunken driver laws before the full implementation of the mandatory insurance legislation is essential for insurers to consider considerable discounts or slap on rate hikes.
While the proposed changes to state drunken driving laws are still at the committee level, Senate Majority leader Russ Decker said that the bill will be discussed in earnest with the resumption of the Assembly session this fall. Legislators say that the new provisions will not require substantial funding from the state government to implement, making the proposed legislation one of the top priorities in the state senate. In the past few months, Wisconsin has been at the forefront of radically altering its long-standing laws regarding traffic safety and car insurance. Experts say that while there can be resistance against these changes, the new landscape will benefit car owners and the insurance industry.