Increase in drunk driving deaths, arrests prompts push for safe driving campaign

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 5:00 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A new push is getting underway to make sure drivers are sober when they get behind the wheel.

The newest Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign started Friday and runs through Labor Day.

It happens every year, but this year, it’s a bigger concern for law enforcement.

Despite the pandemic and people staying home, the number of drunk drivers and fatalities in this area is going up.

“Almost every three hours in the state of Wisconsin, somebody is either injured or killed because of a drunk driver,” says Captain Dan Sandberg with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division.

Sandberg studies the statistics, but it’s the people behind those numbers that have him worried.

There was not a single person killed by a drunk driver in Brown County last year for the first time in decades.

But since the end of March this year, three people have died, and all are believed to be at the hands of drunk drivers.

“I just don’t know if it’s a combo of the Covid thing, because they’re getting antsy and going out and living it up or what, but we’ve got a lot of bad judgment going on right now,” says Sandberg.

Part of that, he believes, is not wearing a seat belt.

He says all three people killed this year were not wearing one.

“We can never guarantee 100 percent, but based on the damage to the vehicles, there’s a very very high likely chance that all those people would have survived if they had been wearing their seat belts,” he explains.

Since June first this year, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office has arrested 82 drunk drivers.

Last year, in the same time period, 71 people were arrested for driving drunk.

Sandberg can’t pin a specific reason on this sudden increase in arrests and fatalities, but he does think more people drinking at cookouts and friends’ houses, where there’s not a Safe Ride program or bartenders cutting people off, could be contributing to the problem.

“We need family to recognize those friends and family that are getting impaired and making sure you say your part to keep them safe and keep the community safe,” says Sandberg.

Along with these extra OWI patrols, deputies are also again working on more seat belt compliance during traffic stops.

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