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Wisconsin issues thousands of ignition interlock devices last year

Just over a year ago, the state of Wisconsin enacted a new law increasing penalties for repeat OWI offenders. In July of 2010, a law went into effect requiring the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for anyone convicted of repeat OWI or for first offenders with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher.

The IID is a device installed in your car that requires you to pass a breathalyzer test before the car will start. Although a BAC of 0.08 percent is considered legally drunk, the IID has a threshold of just 0.02 percent.

After one year, many are applauding how effective enforcement has been. Records from the Department of Transportation show that in just 11 months - July 2010 through May 2011 - more than 9,500 IIDs were issued. Milwaukee County and Brown County lead the state with the highest number of drivers requiring IIDs.

An officer from De Pere said: "Personally, I think that's high. It's a scary number." However, he added: "I think we're going down the right road."

But is the law actually working? It is clearly being enforced, and has resulted in 9,500 Wisconsin residents who must now drive with an IID, but so far there is little evidence to show a decrease in incidents of drunk driving.

For those who must drive with an IID in their car, the costs and inconveniences are very high. Each IID costs about $1,000 per year to install and maintain. Additionally, the BAC threshold is so low that drivers could not reasonably have 1-2 drinks with dinner if they want their car to start.

Drunk driving is illegal, and those convicted of OWI are subject to consequences. But if we are implementing expensive and inconvenient ways to reduce drunk driving, shouldn't we see some evidence that these methods are working?

Source: ABC2 WBAY, "Thousands Convicted of OWI Driving with Ignition Interlocks," Sarah Thomsen, July 29, 2011

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