As holiday spirits flow, police stress moderation, buckling upAs it has during other busy holidays, the River Falls Police Department will join other Wisconsin law-enforcement agencies in keeping a close eye on motorists during the days leading up to Christmas.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
As it has during other busy holidays, the River Falls Police Department will join other Wisconsin law-enforcement agencies in keeping a close eye on motorists during the days leading up to Christmas.
The so-called “Booze and Belts” campaign will run from Friday, Dec. 9, through Saturday, Dec. 17.
According to state statistics, 220 people were killed and 3,500 injured in alcohol-related crashes in Wisconsin last year.
In many instances, unbuckled drivers and passengers were more seriously hurt or died after being thrown from their vehicles or tossed around violently while still inside them during crashes.
While drunk-driving deaths are rare in River Falls, injuries are common.
River Falls Police Sgt. Janis Bock reports that in 2009, local officers ticketed 112 motorists for drunk driving. Last year the number dropped to 65; this year, at the end of November, it was already 73.
While most drivers and passengers buckle up, Bock said a stubborn minority forget or ignore the law.
“I don’t think that has really changed,” she said. “We write a pretty steady number of seatbelt tickets.”
In the past, River Falls has qualified for state funding for the seasonal drunk driving/seatbelt enforcement campaigns, but not anymore. That’s not all bad.
“We haven’t been eligible for any funding for overtime,” Bock said. “The last time we had funding, I believe, was in 2009.
“The funding is offered to those jurisdictions most in need based on the accident statistics.”
The statewide enforcement programs are also designed to heighten public awareness about the hazards of driving impaired and not wearing seatbelts.
Even without the helpful funding, Bock said, “It’s good for RFPD to be part of that media campaign, as we certainly do agree with the message.”
Other publicity/enforcement campaigns go by the slogans “Click it or Ticket” around Memorial Day, and “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” around Labor Day.
Bock said River Falls will have the same number of patrolling officers still looking for dangerous drivers and those not buckled.
With more holiday traffic and winter’s slippery roads, she asked that people remember to “buckle up and make alternative plans for driving when out celebrating the season.”
Bock summarized the issue like this:
“In the last month there were three OWI related accidents — all one-vehicle crashes, all with air bags deployed, but, fortunately, there were no serious injuries. On only one of the three was there a seatbelt was in use.
“I feel three OWI accidents in a month are a lot right here in town. I feel the potential for people to be injured is very great.
“Wearing your seatbelt is protecting yourself and your family from this potential. Planning to not drive when drinking cannot be emphasized enough.
“That’s why we take part in this campaign. To be a part of the message.”