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Saturday, November 24, 2007


Wisconsin's Alcohol Problem

One of the few unfortunate downsides to life in Wisconsin is the state's ugly tolerance for alcohol on the road. It's something you need to factor in if you live here.

Appleton's newspaper, The Post-Crescent, reports today that Wisconsin is the worst in the nation for drunk driving fatalities. Naturally, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is unhappy about that, as am I.

I am disappointed that more vigorous steps have not been taken to reduce drunk driving here and in many other places.
"We continue to see Wisconsin as coming in as worst in every category of alcohol-related traffic fatalities, underage drinking, binge drinking," [said Kari Kinnard of Appleton, MADD Wisconsin's executive director]....

MADD cites lax drunken driving laws and the lack of sobriety checkpoints in the state as contributing factors to Wisconsin's poor ranking.

Sgt. Jeff Nelson of the Wisconsin State Patrol in Fond du Lac said Friday that Wisconsin does not permit sobriety checkpoints, and he wasn't aware of any legislative movement toward them.
There are penalties for drunk driving if you get caught, certainly, but it seems like it would be easy to crack down on drunk driving by simply having police regularly target the parking lots of bars. Pull over a driver as they leave a bar's parking lot at 2 am, check for alcohol, and then whip out the cuffs. I've driven by hundreds of bars at night and can't remember ever seeing a police car staking out the action nearby. Why not? Why not have sobriety checkpoints near bars? And why not make it illegal to serve a person enough alcohol to suffer from impaired driving?

So why do we have such tolerance for alcohol on the roads?

Legislative efforts to deal with the problem face powerful resistance. I think it's more than just a cultural tolerance for alcohol - I think it's the concentrated power of those who profit from our abuse of the deadly drug of alcohol. The liquor lobby in Wisconsin is powerful and effective. But I hope you'll join me in calling upon our legislators and police to take more vigorous and effective steps in cracking down on drunk driving.

What a shame it is to be the worst in the nation in this vital matter of public safety.
When the attorney general is arrested for drunk driving and there is not any outrage you know your state has a drinking problem.
I am strongly against drunk driving... my mother was put in a month-long coma after being hit by a drunk driver while on a motorcycle and I myself will not even drive if I've had more than a couple drinks. But there is a pretty good reason why not to have "sobriety checkpoints."

A little thing called the 'fourth amendment.'

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Unless very strict and specific laws are passed (to ensure that constitutional rights are not violated) outlining how sobriety checkpoints may or may not be conducted it is a violation of probably cause and reasonable suspicion... it's effectiveness against deterring DUIs is irrelevant. I'll take my chances driving with possible drunks on the road at 2am before giving up the right to probably cause and reasonable suspicion.

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
-Benjamin Franklin
RE: "And why not make it illegal to serve a person enough alcohol to suffer from impaired driving?"

And why not make it illegal to sell enogh alcohol to suffer from impaired driving. And why not make it illegal to manufacture/sell cars that can be driven by an impaired driver? Why don't we just make alcohol illegal in the first place, or wait, we already tried that, and look how well prohibition worked!

Try thinking outside the typical "be afraid, be very afraid" mentality that is such an epidemic in this country. Instead of spending tax dollars having cops sitting in parking lots why not spend that money subsidizing a "safe ride home" type program that many colleges offer? Not only do you keep drunks off the road but think of the money you save in terms of our already very overburdened judicial/penal system and free up police to go arrest the millions of people we put in jail for smoking marijuana.

Everyone agrees that drunk driving is not good, but trampling over the constitution and wasting tax dollars having cops sitting in parking lots does very little for the greater good.
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