Report shows ingition interlock devices are working in Wisconsin

Roughly 37,000 attempts to drive were stopped

LA CROSSE, Wis. - A new report from Mothers Against Drunk Driving shows Wisconsin leads the nation in drunken drivers being stopped by interlock devices that were installed on their vehicles.

The devices prevent cars from starting for repeat OWI offenders if they have a blood alcohol content that is above the legal limit.

Dean Kirchner has been installing interlock devices at his business for six years.

"You have to come and take a test. You pass the test if you blow below .02. That will allow your vehicle to start,” Kirchner said.

The Wisconsin law, which was first enacted in 2010, forces certain OWI offenders to install interlock devices.

"Anyone convicted with a second OWI or higher -- so, second, third, all the way up to 10th -- every one of those individuals will be required to have an interlock device on any vehicle they own or operate,” La Crosse Assistant District Attorney John Kellis said. Interlock devices are also installed on first-time OWI offenders if they blow about twice the legal limit.

The report from the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD, shows Wisconsin led the nation with interlock devices stopping roughly 37,000 attempts for drivers getting behind the wheel while drunk.

"I think the system is working, I think the devices are serving their purpose,” Kellis said.

"It's 30,000 instances that could have led to a potential injury or death,” MADD member Frank Harris said.

But enforcing the law can be a challenge, especially with the cost of installation.

“We're talking about individuals having to spend around $1,000 -- somewhere around there -- per year to have the device equipped in their vehicles. Some of them just can't find the financial resources for that,” Kellis said.

Members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving say they want more accountability in the state.

"(We want legislation to include) The last 3 months that someone is on an ignition interlock device, they have to have no recordable violations," said Frank Harris, a member of MADD.

But Kirchner said for the most part, the devices are teaching his clients how to get back on the right track.

"It seems like most people have gotten to the point where most people want to do things right,” Kirchner said.

The La Crosse County District Attorney's office, said it received about 200 referrals from the Police Department on repeat OWI offenders last year.

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