Don’t drink and drive. That’s the simple message the Caledonia Police Department wants residents to remember during the holidays and all throughout the year.
Car crashes involving drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs “are devastating to the families involved,” said Lt. Gary Larsen of the Caledonia Police Department.
Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunk driving in the country, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and in 2010 there were 44,000 drunk driving convictions in the state. First-time drunk driving offenders face fines of $1,000 and the loss of a driver’s license for six to nine months. In addition, offenders who have a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher (nearly twice the legal limit of .08) or who are a repeat offenders must have an ignition lock installed on their cars, which prevents the car from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath.
In addition to avoiding driving after drinking, it’s also important not to drive if you are taking prescription medication that makes you feel drowsy. The police department has noticed a spike in impaired driving by people who are “exceeding the therapeutic dose” of prescription drugs, said Larsen.
With a little planning people can avoid driving after imbibing. Go out with someone who will serve as a designated driver or, if you find yourself needing to get home after too many drinks, call someone to give you a ride home.
“Don’t feel embarrassed to call a friend,” said Larsen. “You’ll feel a lot more embarrassed if you call to say you’ve been arrested.”
Many bars in Racine County participate in the Wisconsin Tavern League’s Safe Ride program, in which free rides are provided to anyone who feels he or she has had too much to drink. The program provided more than 62,000 rides last year. More information is available at www.tlw.org
Although public transportation options are sparse in Racine County, cab options include Racine Yellow Cab, (262) 634-2222. The Racine Belle Urban System operates some bus routes until midnight on weekdays and 10:30 p.m. on Saturdays; route and schedule information is available at www.racinetransit.com or by calling (262) 637-9000. People who are traveling to Chicago for festivities can take the Metra train, www.metrarail.com, from Kenosha or the Amtrak Hiawatha, www.amtrakhiawatha.com.
The police department monitors for drunk or impaired driving through its regular patrols and 911 calls from motorists, said Larsen. Signs of drunk or impaired driving include the following:
- Driving too slow or fast;
- Hitting the brakes repeatedly;
- Making turns too wide or tight.
If you spot someone driving who may be impaired, call 911 and give the dispatcher the car’s license number, description and the approximate location of the car, said Larsen. Callers should stay on the line until the dispatcher has determined where the car is, he said.
Finally, he said, no one who drinks and drive should feel immune from a drunk driving conviction, no matter how good of a driver he or she may be or the distance that will be driven.
"Nobody thinks that it’s going to happen to them,” said Larsen.