UPDATE: Stepped-up alcohol enforcement during prom season - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Stepped-up alcohol enforcement during prom season

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Dane County officials are kicking off Alcohol Abuse Awareness Month by speaking out against the tragedy of the disease and announcing new efforts to combat what some call a dangerous drinking culture in Wisconsin.

The Dane County Coalition to Reduce Alcohol Abuse released a report on the progress it has made in its first year and detail new initiatives for the coming year.

Members hope brutal reality will convince people not to drive drunk.

It starts with sobering reminders of the painful consequences of alcohol.

Daniel Myers, 22, wowed the west side with his passion and skill at the piano.

"People would come and sit on our front porch just to listen to him play," his mother, Elizabeth said.

One of the earliest photos taken of him shows him as a baby, sitting on his father's lap, playing the instrument that would define his short life.

A recent UW graduate, Daniel dreamed of playing Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" with a concert orchestra.

But August 27, 2008 changed everything. Daniel and two friends, Lindsey T. Plank, 23, and Richard H. Putze, 22, were returning home from a night out. They had been drinking. Putze got behind the wheel. Blood alcohol tests would later reveal he was driving with a .144 BAC.

"The car was going fast on Midvale Boulevard -- 90 mph," Elizabeth Myers said. "[Putze] lost control of the car. It slid sideways into a tree. Everyone in the car was killed."

In 2008, 234 people died in alcohol-related crashes, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

"The pain, the cost, the suffering is too much to bear for individual families and for our community as a whole," said Kathleen Falk, Dane Co. Executive.

Prevention groups say alcohol abuse is a plague upon the state. Name any statistic -- from binge drinking to underage drinking -- and, odds are, Wisconsin is worst.

"It's not just the burden on the workforce and healthcare," said Azita Hamedani, M.D., a doctor in the UW emergency room. "It's not just the traumatic injuries, falls, car accidents, motorcycle, ATV accidents."

It is, they say, the human toll -- the consequences of over consumption -- that robbed the world of an aspiring musician like Daniel, and hundreds more people.

Coalition members continue to reach out to middle and high school students, warning them of the dangers.

They're asking parents not to host underage drinking parties, and they're working with police to crack down on underage abuse.

The coalition also published a book, released Monday, that chronicles the stories of families in Dane County affected by alcohol abuse.

The coalition called on lawmakers to pass tougher alcohol abuse laws.

Wisconsin remains the only state where first offense drunk driving is not a felony.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said, "We can change the culture, because we are the culture."

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