BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV) - The Brown County OWI Task Force will enter its third year of operation next month. While statistics show the number of alcohol-related injuries and deaths on county roads is down significantly since its inception, programs leaders still want to do more to curb drunk driving.
They're hard to miss. The task force deploys two to four times every month. Officers from multiple agencies who look for drunk drivers.
"It's our understanding when we are out and about that the word spreads pretty quick," Mike Panosh, with the task force, said.
The grant-funded program got off the ground back in February of 2011. Since then, Panosh said the results have been nothing short of amazing. The number of alcohol-related deaths in Brown County is steadily decreasing. It went from 11 in 2010, to four in 2012.
While overall traffic fatalities in Wisconsin were up 6% last year, Brown County again saw a decline. it went from 29 in 2010, down to 13 in 2012.
"We think the task force, in terms of traffic fatalities for sure, has had a big impact," said Panosh. "We went from 11 before we started the project down to four and we've talked about getting it to zero and we think we can do it."
But Panosh said that may take some tweaks in the program.
"We've reached the ones that will make the right choice," Capt. Randy Schultz with the Brown County Sheriff's Department said. "Now do we need to change somehow to reach the others? We very well might be there."
Capt. Schultz said the task force is now looking into ways to be more efficient and get people home safely.
"We've been talking with the tavern league about sometimes the folks are worried their cars are going to get ticketed if it's parked on the street overnight," explained Captain Shultz. "There's ways we can take care of that also so we can help folks make the right choice."
"Hopefully, overtime, we can keep changing our game, so to speak, and make this program a lot better," added Panosh.
The task force hopes to work with other organizations and the community to either expand safe ride programs, or make people more aware of their options.