More convicted drunk drivers are installing Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) than are being ordered by the courts, however, the I-Team found some are still slipping through the cracks.
“You get past the shock,” Laura Rosol-Hibbler said. “But you don’t get past the missing of your loved one.”
Rosol-Hibbler can vividly remember the night she learned her father, David Rosol, and lifelong family friend, Hazel De Witt, were killed by a drunk driver in December 2017.
“It was a shock,” Rosol-Hibbler said. “It was a huge shock that they were dead.”
The man behind the wheel was Joseph Konetzke, a 57-year-old man who just had his third OWI in less than a month. This time, Rosol-Hibbler’s family was on the other end of Konetzke’s choice to drink and drive again. Just four days before, Konetzke’s license was revoked and, whenever he was able to drive again, he was supposed to have an IID installed in any vehicle he owns.
Konetzke was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing Rosol and De Witt. The entire process was an eye-opening experience for the Rosol family.
“We were a blind eye to it,” Donna Johnson, another one of Rosol’s daughter’s said. “Everyone is a blind eye to it until they experience it and experience what you have to go through and the pain and sadness that you deal with and the anger. You get very angry.”
The family decided to turn that anger into action. They took their story to Madison to try and make legislative change with the help of Eliminate Drunk Driving.
“We started right away,” Rosol-Hibbler said. “Within a month after our dad’s death. We’d go to Madison and talk to legislators. But with anything in politics, it felt like they were listening but you’d see the gears getting stuck. Maybe if a Republican proposed it, Democrats may not be in favor of it or vice versa.”
It was a frustrating experience and the family remains concerned some other Wisconsin family may experience the same pain they are dealing with.
Rosol-Hibbler and her family say they’ll support any legislation that keeps drunk drivers off the road. Any stronger IID legislation could be one step towards that dream.
Between 2019 and June 2021, 36,191 drivers have been ordered to install an IID. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says, in that same time frame, 29,505 IIDs have been installed, showing 81.5 percent compliance.
Wanggaard is one of several authors on legislation to increase penalties and close loopholes on IID compliance. It’s a bill that has gone through the State Legislature twice already. The latest bill’s journey hit a wall in April of 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“When we got into COVID, that kind of, everything slowed up,” Wanggaard said. “So it didn’t make it to the full Senate.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving put together statistics on how effective IIDs have been in Wisconsin. Between 2006 and 2016, IIDs stopped 211,972 vehicles from being started by drunk drivers. As of 2019, that number expanded by 18.3 percent to 250,743 ignition preventions.
However, the I-Team is still finding cases of people not installing IIDs as required. In the last three months, the I-Team found more than two dozen potential IID violations in Milwaukee County alone. Law Enforcement agencies confirmed seven instances where an IID was required but not installed in the vehicle of an alleged drunk driver. Wanggaard hopes this new legislation will change that, by tying the IID requirement to an OWI offender’s license rather than vehicles they own.
“By doing that, they found that they had better compliance,” Wanggaard said. “Because now, it’s the person’s license, not the car.”
Wanggaard hopes changing an offender’s license will, in a way, almost act as a sobriety coin. Those suffering addiction will receive sobriety coins during milestones on their journey.
“You get 30 days, 60 days, 90 days,” Travis, a person battling alcohol addiction said. “It’s monthly for the first 12 months and then annually after that.”
Travis originally didn’t take much stock in the sobriety coins but eventually came around. He’s now coming up on 10 years sober. He punches a hole in his sobriety coin and hangs it on his key chain. When it’s time for the annual reminder of his sobriety, he gifts his prior coin to a fellow person suffering from addiction. It’s a way to celebrate himself and others.
“I really look forward to getting those coins,” Travis said. “I really look forward to being able to show and to acknowledge the fact that I was doing something. Once I got that year coin, it was kind of that ‘a-ha!’ moment. Like, okay, I can do this and then every year, kind of just having that time to reflect on what the last year and my whole journey has been like up to that point.”
“That coin in your hand is a reminder that you’re not a bad person but that you got some issues,” Wanggaard said. “Oh I need to call Bob and talk about having a problem that I have this desire, I just want to go out and get a bottle. I would say [the license requirement] is exactly correct. I’m more likely to take ownership of it.”
However, for the Rosol family, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
“My concern is that, say they pass this and kind of feel like, I did my bit for drunk driving,” Rosol-Hibbler said. “It’s not enough. My dad’s gone. But we don’t want anyone else to feel like this.”
Wanggaard expects this legislation to come up again during the fall session. It will be the third attempt at getting it through.
***A previous version of this story showed statistics provided by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation showing over 100 percent compliance. Wisconsin DOT says those numbers were provided in error. It has since been changed***