24/7 Sobriety: Pilot Program Could Reduce Drunk Driving Rate by 50% in Racine County

Racine is just one of four counties in the state starting a pilot program with a goal of getting drunk drivers off the streets. 

In other states its reducing the re-offending rate by nearly 50 percent and it's cost neutral to the county. 

"So far this year alone we've made over 500 drunk driving arrests here in Racine County. That's astonishing," said Sheriff Christopher Schmaling. 

Which is exactly why Senator Van Wangaard says the state has to find a new way to stop them. 

"It's not always about punishing people for being drunk drivers," he said. 

The new legislation that he co-wrote takes a proactive approach. The specific details are still being ironed out but as it stands now, judges will offer the program called 24/7 Sobriety on a case by case basis. 

The offender pays 50 dollars to enroll, then has to have someone drive them to a location, likely a sheriff's substation, twice a day to test their breath for alcohol at a cost of about 2 dollars per test. 

"Our citizens are not interested in paying additional money for individuals who made bad choices. We recognize that. This program won't be expense to taxpayers, but to the offender," said Schmaling. 

Wanggaard says he wrote this legislation because of the programs positive impact in other states like South Dakota where its reduced drunk driving recidivism by 50 percent and related cases of domestic violence by 9 percent. 

 District Attorney Rich Chiapete says he's not surprised because its a way to keep those who really have a desire to change on track. 

"There's immediate accountability if someone tests dirty. They could be taken into custody immediately or have other charges that arise," he said. 

Schmaling says this program isn't for everyone because he believes some repeat offenders do need to sit in jail. 

But he says for most in Racine County this will be a real wake up call and hopes for real change. 

"I want them to feel the cost of this and recognize their time is being pulled away. While family is home you have to get a ride over to sheriff patrol station to blow into a machine. I hope they're embarrassed by that and I hope its enough to scare them to not drink and drive again," he said. 

One of the details that still needs to be ironed out: How long each person stays in the program. 

24/7 Sobriety should roll out in Racine County this fall and Wanggaard says the goal is to have it work so well all other counties in the state join in. 

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