Wisconsin drunk driving policy found lacking in MADD report

When it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says Wisconsin is one of the worst states in the nation. In its 2014 Report to the Nation, MADD awarded Wisconsin a mere two stars out of a possible five and urged lawmakers to strengthen the state's intoxicated driving policies.

One of the main issues addressed in the MADD report is the fact that Wisconsin is the only U.S. state to treat first-time impaired driving offenses as traffic violations rather than as crimes. In its report, MADD called on Wisconsin lawmakers to crack down on drunk driving by making a first-time offense a misdemeanor.

Other recommendations highlighted in the report include legalizing sobriety checkpoints in Wisconsin and requiring ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers. At present, Wisconsin law does not permit the use of sobriety checkpoints and requires ignition interlocks only for repeat drunk drivers and those convicted of driving with very high blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 or above.

Study shows crash risk increases below drunk driving limit

Like the rest of the nation, Wisconsin considers drivers to be legally intoxicated when their BAC levels reach 0.08 or higher. However, recent research on the consequences of "buzzed" driving suggests that the risk of serious accidents increases substantially even among drivers with BAC levels well below the legal limit.

In a study conducted at the University of California San Diego, researchers found that driving with a BAC of just 0.01 increases the risk of causing a fatal crash by 50 percent when compared to drivers who have not been drinking. As alcohol consumption increases, so does the risk of causing a crash.

First-time drunk drivers cause most fatal crashes

Impaired driving was a factor in one-third of all fatal traffic accidents in Wisconsin in 2012, resulting in a total of 200 deaths that year. More often than not, according to data cited in the MADD report, impaired drivers who are involved in fatal accidents have had no prior convictions for drunk driving.

However, MADD points out, this does not necessarily mean that those individuals have never driven drunk before. According to some estimates, by the time a driver is convicted of his or her first drunk driving offense, he or she has driven under the influence approximately 80 times on average.

Drunk drivers can be liable to crash victims for their injuries

Regardless of whether they have been charged or convicted of a crime, people who harm others in Wisconsin by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be held liable in civil court for the damages they cause. People who have been hurt or lost a family member because of a drunk driving crash in Wisconsin are invited to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss the possibility of seeking monetary compensation for their lost wages, medical bills and other related damages.