In a potential setback in efforts to address drunk driving in Wisconsin, four members of the state Department of Transportation’s Statewide Impaired Driving Task Force, charged with studying ways to reduce it, have resigned. They cited undue influence by the state’s bar and tavern owners.
“That’s certainly one concern. Members of the Tavern League have a financial conflict of interest, that they certainly want to sell as much alcohol as possible,” said Dr. Richard Brown, a family physician and one of those who resigned. “In a recent policy document, the Tavern League was really the only organization mentioned as an organization that was charged to help the DOT to change the culture of drinking.”
AUDIO: Dr. Richard Brown :30
Brown said the Tavern League role is just one of his concerns. “The policy documents that have come out of this committee, have not been recommending research-based approaches to decrease intoxicated driving, and that’s much greater concern of mine,” Brown said, citing screenings by health care providers for binge drinking as an example. Brown said he was never able to attend any meetings because he typically received notices and materials with just a couple of days prior to the meetings. The Department of Transportation released a statement in response to the resignations.
We regret four members of the Statewide Impaired Driving Task Force are choosing to no longer participate on the group. The department welcomes continuing to work with them, along with other individuals and interests on traffic safety issues. Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb will be reaching out to the four individuals to invite them to meet with him to discuss their concerns.
The task force is part of the department’s comprehensive strategy for combating impaired driving. Members include representatives from state agencies, tribal government, law enforcement, district attorneys, insurance, public health and communication organizations. The Tavern League has only one member on the 38-member task force.
The Statewide Impaired Driving Plan was approved by a two-thirds majority of the task force in August 2013. It noted: “No one solution for this problem exists and a comprehensive approach needs to be considered in each community.”
The department believes many effective measures are in place that are helping to reduce impaired driving. Statewide numbers show reductions in alcohol-related crashes, fatalities and injuries.