People of Wisconsin Need Alcohol Awareness Class

by: Mike Miller

Do harsher punishments curb drinking and driving?

Since Wisconsin adopted drugged driving laws to partner along with those on the books for drunk driving, the first fatal accident using the new law in Waukesha County occurred in Muskego in 2005. That year was particularly bad for Muskego as at least five fatal accidents were recorded in the city in about 10 months.

During an alcohol class by a Wisconsin instructor, two students were 'test subjects' for the reality of what drinking to excess can do to balance. One woman had been drinking a bottle of wine, then switched to beer. Another man in the class had downed about seven beers in about 90 minutes. (Probably the equivalent of a tailgater at a sporting event.)

A police officer was testing their blood alcohol content using a field sobriety meter, which is a preliminary measure that can aid officers to determine whether or how drunk a driver might be when pulled over. Added to other physical tests, as well as the own observations of the office, a suspected drunk can be taken in for further tests. Even if a suspect does not blow a 0.08, which is the legal level for intoxication in Wisconsin, if behavior still suggests a high level of impairment, they will pursue a blood test for other substances.

Since the drugged driving law was put into effect, Muskego has seen a slow but steady increase in the number of arrests involving other substances, like marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs and other controlled substances.

While Wisconsin is the only state left in which first offense drunk driving is not a crime, it's no cheap ticket. First offense tickets issued in the city are about $800, and includes only the fine. Costs for alcohol assessments, adjusting driving hours with the DMV and legal fees can add up. Insurance companies are also going to slap drivers convicted with a $1,300 premium for six months.

The drinking students were then taken upstairs to continue field tests and then blow into a precisely calibrated machine called an intoximeter. The instrument tests itself three times a second to ensure accuracy and is so sensitive drunks are asked to keep a minimum distance from it prior to providing a sample because it can detect alcohol in the ambient air.

The woman in the group was more visibly intoxicated, swaying and laughing, while the man was seemingly more in control. Women's tolerance for alcohol is lower than men's because of a higher water content in their bodies.

What do you make a class like this?