Police across the state will not be in a forgiving Christmas spirit when it comes to drunken drivers and those riding without a fastened seatbelt this holiday season.
Wisconsin police are taking part in a “Booze and Belts” national campaign promoted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The campaign will take place from Dec. 7 until Dec. 16.
Drivers will begin seeing increasing police patrol and enforcement of drunken driving and seatbelt laws as part of the campaign, according to Nina Emerson, director of the Resource Center on Impaired Driving at the University of Wisconsin Law School.
“There will be an increased police presence on the road,” Emerson said. “[People] could be stopped simply for an expired license plate. Through this valid traffic stop, [police] can determine if the driver is impaired and if everyone is wearing a seat belt.”
Emerson said campaigns like “Booze and Belts” are extremely effective because of a combination of factors, among them being the media attention that makes people more cautious.
“This deterrent effect decreases the number of people who choose to drive drunk and increases the number of people wearing seatbelts.” Emerson said. “Increased enforcement is a good thing.”
The Wisconsin campaign, spearheaded by the state’s Department of Transportation, is attempting to reduce the amount of accidents from last year.
According to DOT, last December saw 11,000 traffic accidents in the state. Of those accidents, 51 people died and 3,500 were injured.
Fran McLaughlin, spokesperson for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office, said these enforcement campaigns are effective.
“[These campaigns] help just because they remind people to be cautious,” McLaughlin said. “It’s always important to have a combination of education and enforcement to ensure people drive responsibly.”
By 4:30 p.m. Monday, a day with foggy conditions, the Milwaukee County sheriff’s department responded to 32 crashes on the freeways. This was much higher than the usual three to six that happen every day on Milwaukee County freeways.
McLaughlin said these conditions, combined with people choosing to drive drunk or without seat belts, only increases the number of crashes per day.
Milwaukee County received additional grant funds for increased enforcement before Thanksgiving, which will last through the end of the year.
The main point of these campaigns, Emerson emphasized, is to remind the public of its responsibility on the road.
“There is no excuse for drunken driving and people should always, always wear their seatbelt,” Emerson said.
McLaughlin agreed and said regardless of whether police in a given area are increasing enforcement or not, everybody should take extra precaution and remain safe this holiday season.