Drivers impaired by alcohol, prescription medications, or other drugs are equally dangerous and face equally severe penalties
Hundreds of law enforcement agencies across Wisconsin will combine resources to watch for impaired drivers as part of the annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” initiative that begins Friday, August 18 and continues through Labor Day, September 4.
“Whether it’s caused by alcohol, prescription medications or other drugs, impaired driving is illegal, it’s dangerous, and it risks the lives of everyone along our roadways,” said David Pabst, Director of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (WisDOT’s) Bureau of Transportation Safety. “This annual initiative will put more officers on the road for more hours – not simply to make more arrests – but to discourage drivers from making the irresponsible decision to get behind the wheel impaired.”
Nationally, about one-third of all traffic crash deaths involve drunk drivers. Last year in Wisconsin, alcohol-related crashes resulted in 143 deaths and nearly 3,000 injuries. In addition, there were over 24,700 traffic convictions in Wisconsin last year for operating a motor vehicle while impaired.
To deter impaired driving, WisDOT utilizes federal funding to help support 24 OWI task forces operating across the state that combine the resources of multiple law enforcement agencies to conduct high-visibility enforcement efforts. Task force activities occur year-round, are typically announced ahead of time, and often involve roadside signage and vests on officers informing the public that intensified enforcement of impaired driving laws is underway.
“These high-visibility public education and law enforcement efforts are having the intended effect,” Pabst said. “Over the last decade in Wisconsin, alcohol-related traffic injuries and deaths have dropped by about 50 percent. But we still have work to do, especially when it comes to the growing problem of drivers impaired by legal and illegal drugs.”
WisDOT offers a free Drive Sober mobile app, which includes a blood alcohol estimator, designated driver selector, find-a-ride feature (which uses a smart phone’s GPS to locate alternative transportation), along with interactive games that help determine whether drivers should give up their keys. Since its launch in February 2013, nearly 73,500 people have accessed the app, which can be downloaded for free at: www.zeroinwisconsin.gov/drivesober/.