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Recreational vehicle drivers targeted in new Wisconsin DUI bill

Many residents in Waukesha and around the state love to take advantage of the beautiful scenery that Wisconsin has to offer. That's one of the reasons why more than 220,000 registered snowmobiles and countless other boats and all-terrain vehicles are registered statewide.

But as recreational-vehicle enthusiasts continue to hit the trails and lakes, the Wisconsin DNR is starting to crack down on an issue it sees as a growing threat to public safety: drunk driving. A new Assembly bill, which is currently being considered, could increase penalties for drunken recreational driving (DRD).

It is reported that alcohol is a factor in nearly 75 percent of snowmobile deaths annually in Wisconsin. DNR officials say that it is common for recreational drivers to go bar hopping on snowmobiles, even though most of these drivers would not dare drive their cars while consuming that much alcohol.

One of the problems, officials say, is that Wisconsin DRD offenses do not currently affect motor vehicle licenses. Consequences are generally limited to fines and court costs.

However, a new bill would increase penalties for operating a recreational vehicle while intoxicated. Provisions of the proposed legislation would require, in addition to fines, the suspension of recreational vehicle privileges for 12 to 16 months for any driver convicted of DRD with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher for the first time.

Convicted offenders would be at higher legal risk for five years following a first offense. During that time, a second DRD offense (regardless of the type of recreational vehicle involved) could result in the following:

  • Revocation of regular driver's license for six to 12 months
  • Suspension of recreational driving privileges for six to 12 months
  • Potential jail sentence ranging from five days to a full year
  • A maximum fine of $1,100

Both alcohol and recreational vehicles are popular parts of Wisconsin's culture. However, drivers should know that the laws may be changing. If you choose to enjoy drinking while driving a recreational vehicle, you could soon be at risk for criminal charges.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Patrols address drunken recreational driving in Wisconsin," Meg Jones, Jan. 31, 2012

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