Legislators introduce drunk driving bills

Measures would increase OWI penalties

Wisconsin lawmakers are hoping to crack down on drunk driving with three new bills that would increase OWI penalties.

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. Bill Ott, R-Mequon, authored the bills that would increase the penalty for hurting someone in a drunken driving accident. Another would require a prison sentence of at least 10 years for a drunk driver that killed someone. The third would make third-offense OWIs felonies. The legislators introduced the bills to the Assembly Judiciary Committee Thursday at a public hearing.

Ed Kondracki, chair of the Coalition for Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking in La Crosse, said he’s ready to see a change in how Wisconsin residents deals with drinking and driving.

“We’re probably number one in binge drinking, and yet we have one of the most lax OWI laws in the entire country,” Kondracki said.

Onalaska Police Chief Jeff Trotnic said he hopes the measures will deter individuals from considering driving drunk, a change in mindset that would make his job a little easier.

“From my side, when you increase the penalty ranges, it can cause somebody to think maybe about not drinking and driving,” Trotnic said.

The committee wasn’t expected to take immediate action on any of the three bills.