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Car accident prompts Wisconsin advocates to push for tougher laws

A crash caused recently by an intoxicated driver is one of many being cited as an additional reason for strengthening the laws in Wisconsin against driving under the influence. The most recent car accident resulted in three children suffering injuries that were serious enough to require a trip the emergency room. Local advocates say enough is enough.

The mother of a young adult who was seriously injured as a teenager by a drunk driver says fatal accidents are not the only ones that have life-changing consequences. The car of a man driving down the wrong side of the road collided with her son's vehicle. He suffered a shattered leg and was trapped inside his car for nearly an hour before emergency personnel could free him from the wreckage.

According to police, the man responsible was drunk at the time. He was later convicted on charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, for which he served no jail time. It was his third similar offense, according to court records. His victim's mother thinks there should be harsher penalties for repeat offenders. The Wisconsin Governor and legislators appear to agree.

In a recent legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill that puts drunk drivers in jail for a minimum of a month if they hurt someone while driving under the influence. People with multiple offenses face up to three years incarceration. Legislation proposed for next session includes a bill that could make first-time OWI offenders face misdemeanor charges.

For the family members of people who were seriously injured or killed by someone who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time, tougher penalties cannot come quickly enough. When a car accident takes the life of a loved one, the remaining family members retain the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person deemed responsible for their loss. A successfully litigated claim may provide compensation to handle the expenses associated with the incident, and it is also a way to hold a person found responsible accountable for his or her actions.

Source: WEAU, "Advocates against drunk driving want tougher laws", Jenny You, March 24, 2014

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