A man who collected three drunken driving convictions before he killed a grandfather riding a bike near Redgranite has been sentenced to his first prison term – 8 /12 years for the fatal hit-and-run on February 14.
Waushara County Circuit Judge Guy Dutcher also ordered Eric Banaszak, 42, to serve 6 ½ years on extended supervision. The total sentence, 15 years, is a little more than half the maximum Banaszak faced for hitting James Shafer, after a day of drinking.
Banaszak fled the scene, then turned himself over to police about 16 hours later. In July, he pleaded no contest to hit-and-run causing death, a felony with a maximum 25-year sentence.
According to police reports, Banaszak’s girlfriend reported the couple had been drinking in area taverns from 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., 30 minutes before the crash.
Drunken driving would not have been a new experience for Banaszak, also of Redgranite.
He compiled three prior convictions for operating while intoxicated. The latest was in 2006, when he police in Berlin arrested him. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. His license was revoked for 30 months.
He kept driving.
Police in Ripon stopped Banaszak and cited him for driving after revocation on Sept. 7, 2008. On Dec. 1 of that year he was sentenced to spend five days in the Waushara County Jail.
A day later, police caught him driving again, in Redgranite, and cited him. He paid a $200 fine.
When Banszak killed Shafer, the cycling enthusiast had owned Lambeau Lanes for seven years and enjoyed bowling, hunting, and fishing. He loved music and played the guitar.
“Most of all, Jim loved his family,” his obituary said.
Shafer was the first of the 13 cyclists killed by motorists on Wisconsin roads this year. His death highlights the need for drivers to focus first on driving while behind the wheel, and also the impact of alcohol on the road.
According to the Department of Transportation, Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunken driving in the nation and roughly 33,000 people are convicted of drunken driving each year. More than 26 percent of Wisconsin adults who were surveyed admitted that they had driven under the influence of alcohol in the previous year, according to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Here’s how you can avoid an arrest or killing someone.
- Choose a sober designated driver before you start drinking.
- If you’re feeling buzzed, you likely are over the 0.08 limit and should not drive.
- Take mass transit, a taxicab or ask a sober friend to drive you home.