Drunk drivers could lose snowmobile, boat privileges

Published: Feb. 7, 2018 at 6:57 PM CST
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Under current state law, operating a boat, vehicle, snowmobile, ATV or UTV while intoxicated are all separate offenses in Wisconsin. Some lawmakers say that creates a loophole for drunken drivers.

"We have to make sure that there really are some teeth to our laws to keep people from essentially just switching their mode of transportation without taking the precaution that we should expect from anybody who operates on our roadways," said one of the bill's authors, State Rep. Andre Jacque (R - DePere).

Drunk driving convictions for motorized vehicles other than passenger cars currently do not impact a Wisconsin driver's license.

For example, if a person was convicted for driving a boat, snowmobile, ATV and a car while intoxicated, he would not have four total OWI convictions. They would have an OWI for each motorized vehicle, and each would be considered a first offense.

"OWI arrests and convictions on an ATV, snowmobile or boat will not transfer to your driver's license. They will not effect your Wisconsin driver's license," said Dane County Sheriff's Deputy Todd Benisch.

Some lawmakers say the loophole is allowing people convicted of multiple drunken driving offenses to use different modes of transportation to avoid additional convictions.

Jacques wants all OWI offenses to be combined and count against drivers.

"You're no longer going to have a drunk boating, drunk driving, drunk ATV/UTV, drunk snowmobiling and none of them count as a repeat offense even though you've had four offenses," Jacques said.

"These bills act to change the conversation, as far as the culture within our state, about drinking recreationally and using motorized vehicles," said of the bill's authors, State Rep. Cody Horlacher (R - Mukwonago).

Many snowmobile trails in Dane County, for example, connect with bars in the area.

"People like to operate snowmobiles and stop at bars and consume alcoholic beverages," Deputy Benisch said.

He says, as long as people are driving under the legal limit for all vehicles, with a .08 blood alcohol level or less and are driving safe, they won't get a ticket.