Brown County Leads the Way in Reducing Impaired Drivers - WBAY

Brown County Leads the Way in Reducing Impaired Drivers

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Brown County's OWI Task Force hopes its success will breed more success, ultimately saving more lives.

Next week, task force leaders will meet with other task forces and prospective ones across the state.

When the Brown County OWI Task Forces began operations to reduce drinking and driving in early 2011, there were doubts.

"Some people were real skeptical about that, (they said) no way you can get there, not here in Wisconsin, with our alcohol culture," remembers DOT Regional Program Manager Mike Panosh.

But, in just three years, the statistics prove otherwise.

In 2010, there were 29 traffic deaths in Brown County.

Every year since, the number decreased.

So far in 2014, five traffic fatalities occurred. Three were alcohol related.

"When Brown County launched its initiatives, with the help of the Department of Transportation, it was certainly intriguing," said Appleton Police Captain Todd Freeman.

He says Outagamie County soon followed in creating its own task force. Its first deployment was May of 2012.

"In that time we've arrested 134 impaired drivers, officers engaged in the task force have stopped over 1,600 cars. So it's been productive," said Freeman.

There are now six OWI task forces in northeast Wisconsin. Ten exist around the state. And several others are in development.

Next Thursday, they will meet up in Appleton for the first time to share ideas, challenges and tips with each other and with prospective agencies, with Brown County's task force leading the way.

"Now we're getting to the point where a traffic-related fatality is Brown County is somewhat of a rarity. So that really speaks a lot in terms of what we've done," adds Panosh.

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