MADD report shows issues in Wisconsin

File photo (WLUK)
File photo (WLUK)

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, has given Wisconsin a failing grade.  The organization gave the state two out of five stars in OWI prevention.

So what needs to change?  FOX 11 talked with area law enforcement and lawmakers.

It's not a surprise for some to hear Mothers Against Drunk Driving has issues with Wisconsin.

"Wisconsin has a culture for drinking, and until the culture changes, I think it's gonna be a problem," said Lieutenant Steve Brewer with the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department.

In a recent report MADD rated every state on five criteria.  Wisconsin got two out of five stars, meaning it is not covering three of those criteria.

The group would like to see the state require all OWI offenders, even first timers, to have devices in their vehicles that would check their blood alcohol content, before they can drive.
The state currently requires some repeat offenders to use those, but authorities say the method is not foolproof.

"There's ways to get around it.  They'll have somebody else blow in the machine or they've drive a different vehicle," said Brewer.

In Wisconsin, police cannot get a warrant to draw blood for a first time OWI.  That's because Wisconsin is the only state where the first offense is not criminal.

But State Representative Andre Jacque of De Pere has written a bill to allow warrants for civil offenses.

"It's very important that we restore that ability through the search warrant process so there's checks and balances to make sure you have the best evidence available," said Jacque.

And the state does not allow sobriety checkpoints.

Winnebago County District Attorney Christian Gossett told us the checkpoints are a great tool, but not popular.

"We have decided it's not worth the inconvenience of stopping people for a few minutes to try to keep drunk drivers off the roads," Gossett explained.

Gossett told us any changes will also come with costs.

"The easy way to pay for it is to increase the beer tax," he said.

The district attorney says, at this point not many Wisconsinites are willing to pay.

"There's a culture in this state that leaves things the way that they are.  We're still a democracy.  Once people have gotten fed up enough this will change," said Gossett.

Only Montana and Rhode Island rated lower than Wisconsin in the report.

Three bills have passed the state assembly and will be voted on in the state senate, regarding drunk driving.  One deals with the ignition interlock devices.