Menomonie (WQOW) – New numbers had local officials shocked by how many people were not just drunk, but so drunk they were at risk of alcohol poisoning, and still got behind the wheel.
It all started when the Dunn County Criminal Justice Collaborating Council (CJCC) wanted to explore the OWI problem.
“OWIs, operating while intoxicated, are a major portion of the criminal cases that we see here in Dunn County,” said Sara Benedict, coordinator of the CJCC. “So, we wanted to dig a little bit deeper.”
The graph shows criminal OWIs in Dunn County from 2016 and 2017. On one side, the graph shows how many OWI offenses there were. On the other side, the graph shows the person’s BAC, or blood alcohol content. That red line shows the level considered alcohol poisoning, .25 percent. Blood alcohol poisoning can result in a loss of consciousness and even death.
Our of 165 drivers arrested, or ticketed, 26 were above that level and behind the wheel. Some had a staggering BAC of more than .35 percent, and more than one OWI on their record.
“So, we have folks that are out driving their vehicles that are so intoxicated that most people would be unconscious,” Benedict said. “So, that’s an indicator just they have a high tolerance level. With alcoholism, that can get progressively worse over time.”
Researches from the CJCC went in assuming with a university in town, most offenders would be college-aged, but that wasn’t the case. The average age of people arrested or ticketed was 38 in 2016, and 36 in 2017.
The CJCC voted to make preventing alcohol-related issues a priority in 2019. Their goal is to focus on education and raising awareness. They’re still working on ways to do that.