Two WI lawmakers hoping for tougher drunk driving laws in 2013

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GREENFIELD -- Officers from several departments hosted an OWI Task Force roll call in Greenfield on New Year's Eve. They hoped to bring awareness to the fact that extra officers would be out on the lookout for drunk drivers. Meanwhile, two Wisconsin lawmakers hope 2013 brings stronger laws against drunk driving.

State Senator Alberta Darling (R - River Hills) and State Rep. Jim Ott (R - Mequon) were unsuccessful a year ago, but in 2013, they're ready to reissue their proposals for tougher drunk driving laws.

"I don't think people understand the severity of drinking and driving, the consequences, and how out of line our laws are with other states. I think most people want our laws to be more reasonable," Sen. Darling said.

Darling and Ott say it starts with first-time offenders. Right now, a driver's first OWI is a traffic violation -- not a crime. Darling and Ott's proposal would change that, but only for the drunkest of drivers. 

For now, the two are not proposing it be a criminal offense for first-time violators who blow between .08 and .14.

"I don't think we could get that bill passed right now. We couldn't get 0.15 passed last session," Ott said.

The lawmakers also want to make a third OWI a felony. Right now, the fourth OWI is a felony, but that's only if the fourth offense comes within five years of the third.

"I know many people think 'oh let's eat, drink and be merry. We're the beer/brat state,' but you know what? We need responsibility in our state," Greenfield Police Sgt. Sean Licht said.

Sgt. Licht says he supports tougher laws and hopes it would help Wisconsinites take drunk driving more seriously. 

"It's not only getting a ticket, getting fines and insurance rates, but you also have the potential of hurting or killing somebody and not only is their life gone but your life as well because you killed somebody and you're gonna be in jail," Sgt. Licht said.

In addition to the proposals, Darling and Ott are also calling for a minimum sentence of 10 years for any driver who kills someone while driving drunk.