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Extra officers on OWI patrol Thanksgiving weekend

Posted: 3:55 PM, Nov 22, 2017
Updated: 2017-11-23 07:38:34Z

Thanksgiving is the deadliest holiday when it comes to drunk driving accidents and local police agencies are stepping up enforcement, especially Wednesday night.

The night before Thanksgiving has become known as a huge drinking night, when many people go out to bars.

An OWI task force made up of 35 law enforcement agencies in southeast Wisconsin have deployed extra officers Wednesday night to look for any signs of impairment.

"You’re going to see a huge presence of officers tonight all over the place," said Sgt. Daniel Rossmann with the Whitefish Bay Police Department.  "A lot of times the big drunk drivers are either weaving, crashing into things but we look for minor infractions that could lead to looking for impaired drivers."

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, from 2012 to 2016, more than 800 people died in drunk driving crashes during the Thanksgiving weekend.

This year, the agency launched a social media campaign with sobering messages about making it to the Thanksgiving table.

"It's one of the few Wednesdays that I actually do sit at the door and check ID's," said Jason Hall, who works at Hosed on Brady.

He said they're expecting a busy night but are always prepared to get people a ride home. Hosed on Brady is one of dozens of Milwaukee area bars that participate in the SafeRide program through the Tavern League of Wisconsin.

"The bar itself can send them home with a SafeRide voucher and it covers the first $25 of their cab ride," said Hall. "We want people to come back, we want them to get home safe."

He said the voucher also includes a tip for the cab driver. His bar actually has a button they can press that will immediately call a cab. Funding for the program comes from a surcharge on OWI convictions, and the rest is made up by Tavern League members.

The extra police enforcement isn't just on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Rossmann says police agencies receive special funding from the state to provide extra OWI patrols through the holiday season.