State crash data reveals where drunk drivers do the most damage
Steve Chamraz , Shaun Farrell
9:44 PM, Oct 29, 2015
10:27 AM, Oct 30, 2015
KENOSHA – Of all the things Rebecca Smither imagined could go wrong on her wedding day, she thought nothing would top a mix-up with her flowers.
"My father picked up the corsages," Smither said. "I wanted Gerbera daisies and some of them were pink roses."
Not long after she and her husband exchanged rings and vows on July 20, 2013, the flowers were forgotten.
A drunk driver plowed through a red light straight for the bus holding Smither's bridal party.
"It could have been a very, very tragic event," she said.
Her story is one of thousands contained in data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which keeps records of crashes caused by drunk drivers.
The I-Team looked at every alcohol involved crash for three years across Racine, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Waukesha and Ozaukee counties.
A total of 4,220 wrecks where 2,071 people here hurt and 132 were killed.
Top 15 streets for alcohol-involved crashes
But when we dug deeper into the numbers, the I-Team discovered some surprising trends that reveal the city streets where drunk drivers are doing the most damage.
Al Canada was hit by a drunk driver in one of those hot spots.
He was driving home from work April 21, 2014 through the intersection of 85th and Sheridan Rd, in the city of Kenosha.
A drunk driver hit Canada so hard his Jeep flattened as it rolled.
"I didn't realize what happened until the vehicle flipped and uprighted itself and i proceeded to climb out the sunroof," Canada said.
Canada's wreck was one of 44 drunk driving crashes on Sheridan Road in just three years.
That includes the one that hit Rebecca Smither.
"I didn't know what happened until we had actually crashed and pulled over to the side of the road," Smither said.
Her bridal party was on 60th Street headed to the lakefront for photos. The drunk driver was speeding north on Sheridan.
The drunk driver delivered a glancing blow to the front end of the bus. Had the bus driver not slammed on the brakes as he entered the intersection, Smither believes the accident would have been tragic.
"If he had not been on the brakes and that driver t-boned right where Travis and I were," she said, her voice trailing off.
Kenosha Police chief John Morrissey does not know why this is happening on Sheridan Road, but acknowledges it is a trend that needs addressing.
"These are some pretty major crashes and some significant injuries in some of these crashes as well. I'd say it's a significant problem," Morrissey said.
There is one street in southeast Wisconsin even more of a problem than Sheridan Road.
Between 2012 and 2014 no city street in the area saw more alcohol-involved wrecks than Greenfield Avenue.
From 3rd Street in Milwaukee to 108th Street in West Allis, drunk drivers caused 55 crashes, injuring 19 people and killing four.
The day after last Christmas, Dawn Canales lost her son to a drunk driver at 44th and Greenfield.
Marcus Canales was walking down the sidewalk when a truck racing east jumped the curb and hit him.
"He didn't have any regard for anybody's life,” Dawn Canales said.
“It just happened to be my son who got hit. It could have happened to anybody, anybody walking down that street,"
The I-Team discovered that is not even the worst stretch of Greenfield Avenue.
Between 62nd and 92nd Streets, drunk drivers caused 22 crashes. Those 30 blocks are in the heart of West Allis and under the watch of Lt. Todd Clementi.
He, too, was unaware of the frequency of alcohol-involved crashes until the I-Team brought it to his attention.
"That particular stretch is news to me that we had that many within that short period," Clementi said.
While the number of crashes was news to Lt. Clementi, it is no big surprise.
He said heavy traffic and the large number of bars on Greenfield can cause some traffic problems.
But the crashes are something West Allis can now address.
"We discussed potentially trying to feed some of the grant money into that area for alcohol targeted enforcement, to try to get more saturation within that stretch," Clementi said.
In Kenosha, Chief Morrissey has the same plan. He wants to use what the I-Team discovered to better deploy his resources.
"Thats a significant issue," he said. "So certainly you brought to my attention a problem and a problem we'll address with our traffic grants coming up"
To the victims of drunk drivers those would be welcome efforts.
While a drunk driver can wreak their havoc anywhere, police need any advantage they can get.