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Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle put a new law on the books when he signed a bill to toughen state drunk driving laws.
According to the Associated Press, the new law makes a fourth offense drunken driving a felony if it occurs within five years of the previous offense. A first offense will be a misdemeanor if someone younger than 16 is in the car. In addition, repeat offenders and first-timers with high blood alcohol contents must get ignition interlocks.
The new penalties take effect July 1.
Some advocates were pushing for tough changes that weren't included in the new state drunk driving laws. The changes include, offenses a crime and legalizing roadside sobriety checkpoints.
The new Wisconsin law is similar to efforts in other states aiming to tighten loopholes in DWI enforcement.
In New York, as previously discussed, the state assembly recently passed Leandra's Law, which pushes for some of the nation's toughest penalties for drunk driving, including making it a felony to drive intoxicated with children as passengers and forcing first time DWI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed.
According to federal data, Wisconsin has the highest number of drunk drivers in the nation.
About 41 percent of Wisconsin's traffic deaths in 2008 were alcohol-related. The national average was 37 percent.
Lastly, a recent statewide poll suggests the public is solidly behind tougher penalties for drunk driving in Wisconsin. Also, a majority support a targeted tax increase on drinkers to help pay for needed changes, poll results show.
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