September 23, 2014

Wisconsin sees big drop in drunk driving crashes

WRN file photo

WRN file photo

New numbers from the state Department of Transportation show there was a massive drop in alcohol-related crashes in Wisconsin over the past decade

Between 2003 and 2013, fatal alcohol-related crashes in Wisconsin dropped by 47 percent, while injuries fell by 59 percent. The overall number of alcohol-involved crashes was down 45 percent. Dave Pabst with the state Bureau of Transportation Safety says it’s the result of a lot of hard work by law enforcement and public education campaigns. He says those efforts have “brought awareness to the problem,” along with adding “some teeth” to the enforcement of laws that target operating while intoxicated offenses.

According to the state DOT, fatalities from alcohol-related crashes in Wisconsin dropped from 348 in 2003 to 185 in 2013. Injuries from alcohol-related crashes dropped from 6,445 in 2003 to 2,660 in 2013. The overall number of alcohol-related crashes dropped from 9,007 in 2003 to 4,945 in 2013.

While the numbers are down, Pabst says the DOT still believes there are far too many crashes on Wisconsin roads where alcohol was a factor. He notes that, last year, there were 185 fatalities that were OWI related, which is “185 too many.” Pabst says the goal remains for there to be zero deaths on Wisconsin roads, so “we’ve still got a ways to go.”

As part of ongoing efforts to reduce drunken driving, the state will once again be focusing on OWI enforcement later this month. More than 400 police agencies in the state will take part in a nationwide enforcement period that starts this coming Friday and runs through Labor Day.