(Published August 2, 2007, 1:23 p.m.)
Editor's Note: The following is a letter to The Time Is Now, a private charity serving Walworth County. The founder, who knew poverty as a child, now provides help for those in need. Every penny donated goes to the needy for daily necessities of life. Donors will receive a tax-deductible itemized receipt showing exactly where every penny was spent. We'll publish a letter most weeks.
Send your donation to: The Time Is Now to Help, PO Box 70, Pell Lake, WI 53157
I am trying to cope with the loss of mobility of a loved one due to a drunk driver. My loved one will be paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for life.
This is the second time I have had to endure the pain caused by a drunk driver's careless, selfish act. I pray all the time for something to change. Since our present laws do not seem to discourage people from drinking and driving I was wondering if you had any thoughts or insight into how we can improve our, and our loved ones', safety on our roads.
A distraught, devoted reader
D ear Readers,
I have written several times over the past years about drunk drivers.
I want to bring to everyone's attention, even those who only have an occasional drink, that drinking and driving responsibly is essential. There is no excuse for drunk driving, as there is no excuse for doing anything that may endanger or take someone's life.
I have been informed about a new system that is being established called Drug/Alcohol-Treatment Court. It is being tested in several Wisconsin counties because what has been done to control the problem in the past is not working. The numbers of those killed or maimed by drunk drivers is higher than any other causes of fatalities or injuries. This is a behavioral problem and it must be corrected with professional intervention. Simple solutions such as having a designated driver, drinking within the legal limits, utilizing public transportation, a taxi or limousine service and abstaining if you can't control your consumption of alcohol, are essential. Stricter legal limits may be in order since the current law states 0.08 percent blood alcohol count is the upper threshold for driving safely. A blood alcohol count of 0.08 percent would entail an average sized man to drink four alcoholic drinks in one hour on an empty stomach, three drinks for a woman. I know many people who could not walk with that much alcohol in their system, much less drive a car safely. Enacting stricter blood alcohol count limits would not affect your average social drinker who has a glass of wine with dinner or a drink after work.
Other states have seen an improvement in repeat offenders by implementing substance abuse treatment programs in addition to driver's license suspension. Serving 90 days or more in jail without any treatment program has had little effect on repeat offenders who have a true alcohol/drug abuse behavior problem. They will get out of jail and head to the nearest bar if not supervised and counseled. Drug/alcohol-treatment court would instead sentence an offender to drug/alcohol abuse counseling. The counseling would directly work to correct the behavior problems of alcoholics. In order to participate in this program, all rules to attend appointments for counseling must be strictly adhered to.
Bringing about positive change takes funding. Budgets need to be allocated for behavioral assistance programs and at the same time the problem of overcrowding of jails could be addressed. Implementing electronic ankle bracelet devices, in order to keep those with drinking behavioral problems at home and off the roads until they complete their rehabilitation programs, would be a way to monitor their adherence to the rules. Why should the taxpayers house and feed the drunken driving offenders? They can be housed in their own homes, paying for their own food and utilities. This would be a step program, the first step being house arrest with only approved counseling/doctor's visits. The second step would allow work release for limited hours, with the main goal being to get the person back into the mainstream of life sober and without addictions.
I'm looking forward to working with the powers-that-be to help bring some solutions to our area. Let's remember our quadriplegic friend, Harry, who was a victim of a drunk driver and, right after that, that same driver was caught again with her baby in the car for another drunken driving offense. Never once was any type of alcohol treatment program offered or implemented. How about our good neighbors Dr. Scot and Dr. Mona, and their children hit by a drunk driver? How has that one selfish act affected their lives? Even our own Walworth County Sheriff, who protects us 24/7, his family was struck by a drunk driver.
I appreciate your patience in allowing me to write about this topic. There are many letters written to The Time Is Now due to alcohol and drug abuse. Many families are affected by the untimely and unnecessary death or disfigurement of a family member or dear friend. At least 20 percent of those who we help are those who have been abandoned by a spouse who was an alcoholic.
Together we need to stand up for what is right and just. It is for the betterment of all of us to implement an alcohol behavioral treatment program to make our county a better place to live for everyone.
Health and happiness,
God bless everyone,
A special thank you to: Richard and Jean Honeyager, David Ahler, James and Janice Batten, Ruth Schoof, Peter and Sandra Douglas, Roger Miller, Elizabeth and James Bach, Doris Juel Storm, Delilah Flaum, Martin and Sally Haas, Margaret Helen and Steven Buchanan, June Davidson, Dennis Peterson, in memory of Bob Castleman, Peterson Drywall, Packaging Solutions.
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