Study: Drunken drivers name where they got their last drink

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - We are getting a new look and new perspective on where exactly people are getting drunk before they get behind the wheel.

It's information coming directly from the drunken drivers when they're stopped by police for suspicion of OWI.

We were first to tell you about the idea last fall when county leaders came up with the Place of Last Drink study.

It began January 1, and Tuesday, law enforcement released the results from the first three months of reports to the Brown County Traffic Safety Commission.

There were 227 OWI arrests in Brown County from January through March.

At each arrest, officers asked the person where they'd been drinking:

  • 41 percent reported drinking at home or refused to answer
  • 59 percent named an establishment

"It's kind of an early release, but we're looking at continuity. This is some results," says Don Mjelde, president of the Brown County Tavern League.

Of the nearly 400 establishments in Brown County where you can consume alcohol, the study found 16 percent were named by drunken drivers during an OWI traffic stop.

The vast majority were named once.

Eight businesses were named four or more times.

  • XS Night Club: 9
  • Cock and Bull: 6
  • Stadium View: 6
  • Oneida Casino: 5
  • LaCueva/The Cave: 4
  • Lucky's Bar: 4
  • Mally's Bar: 4
  • The Nines:4

"We're not going after any bars or trying to shame them or anything. We're just trying to see if there is a problem in some areas, whether it be over-serving or if there are any problems with events in the area being a problem and being able to handle that if needed," says Mjelde.

The tavern league and law enforcement are carefully analyzing the data, but agree three months of numbers can't yet paint an accurate picture.

"It gives us a starting point as far as looking at these numbers and going and contacting these bars and making them aware of it," says Captain Dan Sandberg, head of the patrol division at the Brown County Sheriff's Office.

He says they're not just looking at possible over-serving or undertraining. They're looking at a bar's location, size, traffic and surrounding events.

Mjelde says they also need to consider whether a drunken driver is telling the truth.

"A lot of patrons are loyal to their establishments, so they might say, if they get pulled over, where they were at last, and they might say the last place they were kicked out of or a place they don't like as much," Mjelde points out. "So we're trying to analyze the data, and I think it's too early to tell."

But what they do know? The conversation is starting, and there's a renewed focus on education and prevention.

"Based on my conversations with tavern owners and the tavern league, they're more than willing to be a part of the solution. They don't want to be a problem," says Sandberg.

To put things in perspective, Mjelde compared Brown County's results to a 2014 study in Waukesha , where he says 43 OWIs came from just two bars.

Only two bars in the top eight in this study are part of the Brown County Tavern League, but Mjelde is hoping this means more bars will join, so they can participate in the Safe Ride program.

They're also announcing the start of Another Way, a first of its kind bus service in the greater Green Bay area, that will shuttle people among dozens of Brown County bars to keep them from driving.

When it launches and how it'll work coming up in a story Tuesday night on Action 2 news at 10:00.

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