Saturday, April 26, 2008

Don’t They Get It?

An item in the Local section of the Wisconsin State Journal said a Madison driver was arrested for operating under the influence (OWI) and operating a motor vehicle without a license. He has been convicted four times for driving under the influence. With last Saturday’s stop, he has a total of three OWI charges pending.

He has seven OWI charges? That means he has driven drunk more times but he was only caught seven times. Each of these times, he was supposed to have an alcohol usage assessment. Current state law should send you to prison after the fifth conviction, sooner if you cause injury or death to someone else.

There are other drivers who have multiple OWI charges. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, there are about 23,000 drivers with three or more convictions. They also say that the median Blood Alcohol Content level of those convicted of OWI is .017, more than twice the legal limit. Wisconsin Mothers Against Drunk Driving says that 50 percent of all Wisconsin traffic deaths are alcohol-related.

Most of us who live in Wisconsin have driven to or from a place when we should not. Most of us have driven at a time when few cars are on the road and so far or fast so that we have never had an accident. It is not a driving problem, however; it is a drinking problem.

Unfortunately, it is something I know about. I was a binge drinker in college in Madison but I did not have a car in college. I was 22 and working in Minnesota when I was picked up for DWI for the first time in 1980. Driving school reduced the charge. I had a DWI in Virginia about a year later, which was knocked down by my attorney to reckless driving when I went to driving school and AA for six weeks. I became much more responsible.

After my divorce, I gradually lost control of my drinking. My final DWI came in Michigan in 1997, when I received my best and most honest alcohol assessment and was “sentenced” to AA for one year. I have been continuously sober since Jan. 18, 1998. If I never have my first drink, I will never have 20. I do not mind being around people who are drinking, which in Madison is just about everyone.

I had three charges of driving drunk before I became sober. How do people have many OWI convictions and are not able to realize that their problem is alcohol, not driving?

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