Opinion: Be safe, sober in new yearEarlier this month, area law enforcement agencies participated in a statewide campaign reminding motorists to buckle up and drive sober.
Earlier this month, area law enforcement agencies participated in a statewide campaign reminding motorists to buckle up and drive sober.
“Booze and Belts” was a week-long effort by approximately 200 such agencies throughout Wisconsin, including the Ellsworth and Prescott police departments. In announcing the program, Prescott’s Acting Chief of Police Mike R. Bondarenko urged Christmas partygoers not to drive after drinking alcohol.
That good advice extends to the New Year’s holiday as well. Not only is drinking a traditional part of the year-end festivities, but many who join the partying may not be used to ingesting alcohol in high amounts and dealing with its resulting effects.
Commenting on the earlier Booze and Belts mobilization, State Patrol Major Dan Lonsdorf of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Safety said, “We hope that during the upcoming holiday season people will voluntarily choose to buckle up and drive sober. But if they don’t, our extra enforcement will increase their risk of getting caught. Our goal is to save lives and prevent injuries—not to write more safety belt tickets or make more drunken driving arrests. But far too many lives are destroyed by traffic crashes, so we would gladly write a thousand tickets if that prevents the need for a funeral during the holidays.”
From the public’s perspective, instead of being a matter of whether officers meet some imagined citation quota, buckling up and not driving drunk should be done in everyone’s interest. On average, someone is killed or injured in a traffic crash every 15 minutes in Wisconsin. Despite year-to-date traffic fatalities being down 22 percent in 2008 (the equivalent of 144 deaths), even one person dying on the roadways is one too many.
Penalties for operating a vehicle while intoxicated are severe. The Prescott acting chief reports a first offense in that city is a forfeiture action in municipal court. Fines begin at $726 and six months license revocation, and can be as much as $789 and nine months revocation. Second and subsequent offenses are criminal cases prosecuted in circuit court and include mandatory jail time.
“The best way to prevent alcohol-related crashes is to have only sober drivers on our streets and highways,” Bondarenko said. “The only way to guarantee we have only sober drivers is for no one to drive after having been drinking.”
His sentiments can be applied to New Year’s, all holidays and every other day, too.