Families of drunk driving victims say four OWI law a good start, but more needs to be done

A Milwaukee man is accused of driving drunk with a child in the car. It happened around 3 a.m. Thursday on I-43 South near Becher.

Milwaukee County Acting Sheriff Richard Schmidt says the rate of drunk driving in our area is reaching epidemic proportions.

“Some recent study just named Wisconsin the second drunkest state in the country,” Schmidt says. “That’s a disgrace. The amount of people who are dying, who are sick, and who have an alcohol problem is disturbing. It should be registering with everyone by now, that this is not the right way to do things.”

Schmidt says increased OWI Patrols are in effect, but punishment needs to be stricter.

“The harsher the penalties, and the more severe judgment people get, the better chance we have of changing behavior," he said. "If someone takes a gun and kills someone, they got to prison for a long time. But, a driver can get behind the wheel while impaired, smash into somebody else, and say it’s an accident. That’s not an accident. It’s a deliberate act that endangered people.”

Under a brand new state law, drunk drivers will have their license permanently revoked after four drunk-driving offenses. Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill into law Wednesday. While many acknowledge this is a step in the right direction, they say much more needs to be done. 

Often, people don’t realize the lasting and painful impact of OWI, until they’re directly affected. And by then, it’s too late.

 “She went to work at 11 and she was gone by 11:20,” said Tania Perez. “The pain and shock of that kind of sudden death is unbearable.”

Tania’s best friend of 20 years, Candace Franckowiak, was killed by a drunk driver.

That driver, 23-year-old Abby Dominski, told police she was on her way home from a day of drinking and a Brewer's game last September, when the crash happened.

“That young lady killed someone and could possibly walk away with maybe 4 years of jail, because it was a first offense?” Tania said. “That’s not enough.”

Tania believes the new law that would permanently revoke a driving license after four OWI’s is a great measure, called for a stronger punishment for the first OWI.

“What letters can we write?” she said. “What can we say to the governor and the powers that be, who make these decisions and laws, so they can feel how serious and damaging this is? It’s affected so many people. But nobody hears about that. You don't hear much about the family members who have to go on.”

Like Candace Franckowiak’s young son and daughter, who’ve been forced to live the rest of their lives without their mom.

“Every Christmas, birthday and milestone in their life that comes to pass, she’s not here,” Tania said. “Every day we wake up knowing that our life is the way it is, because some stranger changed it, with one single, reckless decision.”

The new “4-strikes-and-you’re-out law” means that anyone who drives after their license has been revoked could face a year in jail and hefty fines.

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