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Brown County law enforcement tries to head off fatal crashes

Patrols were added to enforce two of the greatest concerns
Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 5:07 PM CDT
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BELLEVUE, Wis. (WBAY) - A sudden increase in fatal crashes in Brown County has law enforcement worried as we head into what they expect to be the busiest roadways we’ve seen in months. The sheriff’s office is now assigning extra officers to enforce two of their biggest concerns.

A smashed SUV from a crash on Interstate 41 is still sitting in a Brown County Sheriff’s Office garage, creating a sad reminder of how dangerous our roads have been this year. Five crashes since late February killed 7 people.

That’s more than twice as many traffic deaths in the county as this time last year, during a time studies show traffic volume was cut in half by the coronavirus pandemic response.

“It’s the distracted driving. you’ve got the drunk driving, and they’re just not paying attention,” Patrol Capt. Dan Sandberg said, “and those are the things... it’s a deadly mix.”

Sandberg says at least two of the fatal crashes involved alcohol. In two others, people were not wearing seat belts. Both women in that SUV were ejected -- one did not survive.

Sandberg says deputies are again focusing part of their traffic enforcement on getting people to wear safety belts.

“Out of the 90 percent that we’re getting compliance with, that 10 percent are accounting for almost half of the fatal crashes in the State of Wisconsin,” he said.

You can expect OWI task forces out over the holiday weekend, too.

Sandberg says data collected from drun kdrivers in the county’s “Place of Last Drink” study the last few years shows more drivers are drinking too much at barbecues and bonfires than at bars. That has him worried what this Fourth of July weekend will bring.

“Especially this as the first major holiday where things have kind of settled down for COVID, where people are likely to get back to their normal things -- or maybe even go a little excess. So, we are concerned.”

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