Starting Friday, through Labor Day weekend, law enforcement agencies are increasing patrol numbers and hours. It's all part of the latest "Drive Sober, Get Pulled Over" campaign.
"Take the keys away from friends, take cabs, use Uber or Lyft," said Brown Deer Police Officer Jill Zeise. "Leave your car parked at a friend's house, or you can always leave your car parked at the bar and get it the next day. Our goal is not to pull-over a ton of people. It's to prevent drunk driving from happening in the first place. It really is 100 percent preventable."
It's a message we hear so often. But while it's preventable, drunk driving is still so prevalent.
"A close friend of my family lost her daughter to a drunk driver," said Shovanni Cross.
It seems anywhere you go, at anytime in Wisconsin, you'll meet someone impacted by Drunk Driving in some way.
"It's sad," Cross said.
Hundreds of law enforcement agencies throughout the state will increase patrols through September 2nd.
"It's good to hear, but they can't catch everybody," Cross said. "I think people tend to take things for granted. Like it's not going to happen to them. It's frustrating"
There appears to be a similar frustration when it comes to strengthening OWI laws in Wisconsin.
"Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the law is, it all boils down to the individual and thinking before they act," said Hal Rubin.
Just two days after Labor Day, on September 4th, people are invited to speak their minds to state senators at a public safety committee hearing on several OWI bills. Those bills include making first-time drunk driving a misdemeanor, rather than a traffic ticket, requiring anyone accused of their first OWI to personally appear in court, and imposing a minimum of 18 months in jail for a 5th or 6th OWI.
A few weeks later, the committee will vote to kill the bills, or send them to the senate floor for review. Most of the bills have been heard in the past but never made it to a vote.
"I believe the only time they're going to do something about this, is when it happens to their family member," Cross said. "That's the only way they'll really understand and feel compelled to make a change."
Last year in Wisconsin, alcohol-related crashes resulted in 159 deaths and nearly 3,300 injuries. Also in 2018, there were 24,624 OWI convictions in Wisconsin.
To combat the problem, Wisconsin currently has:
- Nearly 5,000 law enforcement officers trained in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) deployed to help detect and remove impaired drivers from roadways.
- 301 highly-trained Drug Recognition Experts - among the most in the nation.
- 23 multi-jurisdictional, high-visibility OWI enforcement task forces that operate year-round across the state.
How citizens can help:
- If you plan to celebrate, identify a sober designated driver.
- Never allow someone else to get behind the wheel impaired.
- If you see a driver that you suspect is impaired, call 911.
- Be prepared to provide as much detail as possible about the driver, vehicle and location.
Download the free "Drive Sober" mobile app from the WisDOT website. Among its functions, the app includes a "find a ride" feature to help locate transportation alternatives. Since its launch on Labor Day of 2013, more than 73,850 people have accessed the app. Some taverns and restaurants have programs to provide patrons a safe ride home. Visit www.tlw.org/ and click on "Safe Ride."