State Patrol Law of the Month - a reminder that driving under the influence of prescription medications or other drugs is just as dangerous and illegal as driving while impaired by alcohol

Most everyone is familiar with the many dangers of driving drunk. What some people may not realize is that driving under the influence of prescription medications or other drugs is just as dangerous and illegal. The Wisconsin State Patrol’s August Law of the Month reminds motorists that driving while impaired by prescription medications or other drugs carries the same serious penalties and potential consequences as driving under the influence of alcohol.

“Whether it’s caused by alcohol, prescribed medication or any other drug, impaired drivers are dangerous drivers who jeopardize the safety of everyone along our roadways,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent J.D. Lind. “Law enforcement officers are well trained to identify and apprehend impaired drivers. But our goal is to deter drivers from making the irresponsible decision to get behind the wheel impaired where they could hurt or kill themselves or someone else.”

Over the last decade in Wisconsin, drug-related traffic fatalities have increased from 77 deaths in 2007 to 118 in 2016. While law enforcement is on the lookout for impaired drivers year round, officers will patrol in greater numbers for longer hours during the annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” initiative from August 18 through Labor Day. Other key components of Wisconsin OWI laws:

  • Drivers can be arrested for OWI even if their blood-alcohol content is below the legal limit of 0.08 if it’s determined their level of impairment makes them unable to safely operate a motor vehicle;
  • Under Wisconsin’s “not a drop” law, drivers under age 21 are prohibited from having any detectable amount of alcohol in their system;
  • Drivers who refuse a blood/breath alcohol test will lose their license for at least one year and may have their vehicle impounded;
  • State law calls for installation of ignition interlock devices on all vehicles owned by anyone convicted of first offense OWI with an alcohol content of 0.15 or higher as well as second or subsequent OWI offenses;
  • Penalties double for impaired drivers who have passengers under age 16 in their vehicle.

More information about Wisconsin’s impaired driving laws, consequences and economic costs can be found on theWisDOT website.

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