WISCONSIN (WKOW)-- Law enforcement will be out in full force this weekend as part of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign. It comes just a few weeks after state lawmakers introduced a handful of bills that aim to cut down on OWI.
With such a complex issue, officers say there's really no specific solution to the drinking and driving problem. Instead they believe it needs to be fought with a multi-faceted approach.
"We've been lax on this for a long time and now we're kind of stepping up to par in getting with the rest of the country and issuing similar penalties," UW Police Officer Rick Spoentgen says.
Statewide around 330 law enforcement agencies will have extra officers on the roads. The officers will focus most of their attention on pulling over drunk drivers. The effort is funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
"I think it's a good initiative. It gets police resources out on the streets to try and combat the problem and it also raises public awareness," Spoentgen says.
Officers aren't the only ones trying to cut down on the amount of drinking and driving. Several state lawmakers have proposed OWI bills to combat the ongoing problem.
"I honestly don't know if it is going to work. I really hope it does and really think it is something we should do just to set a standard for the nation," Spoentgen says.
Spoentgen agrees that things like making a first OWI a criminal offense or making a 3rd and 4th OWI a felony could potentially cut down on drinking and driving. Other ideas like taking away a drivers vehicle after a 3rd offense would also help.
"You always wonder, it's like hey, maybe if they had gotten the kind of information necessary to make an informed decision or gotten this kind of scared straight message, that they wouldn't have re-offended," Spoentgen says.
But Spoentgen and other officers also feel that the state needs to step up with education and outreach to combat a drinking culture that downplays how serious drinking and driving can be.
"It would be interesting to see for at least my perspective what would happen if they could do somewhat of a more treatment oriented approach," Spoentgen says.
Last year 223 people in Wisconsin were killed in alcohol-related crashes, according to the Department of Transportation. Officers are hoping this extra enforcement will help lower that number this year.
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