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Weekend sees multiple first time OWI offenses

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – La Crosse Police stayed busy over the weekend with drunk driving offenders – Officers say they cited eight first time cases.

Every year, about 24,000 Wisconsin drivers are arrested for getting drunk then getting behind the wheel. 190 people are killed annually in drunk driving crashes statewide.

In La Crosse, police say those eight arrests between Friday, April 12, and Sunday, April 14, is high for such a short time frame. To date in 2019, city police have arrested 116 people for driving under the influence – that includes both drugs and alcohol. That’s an average of at least one person per day.

Police say they can’t combat the drunk driving problem with arrests alone. They’re asking the community to step up and know the options available locally so everyone can get wherever they’re going safely.

“When you start looking at Uber and Lyft, and the Tavern League has a Safe Ride, and all the cab services, or just in general, calling a responsible driver. There are lots of alternatives to getting behind that wheel when you’ve had a few drinks,” explains La Crosse Police Sergeant Tom Walsh.

If the mark on your record isn’t enough to deter you from drunk driving, the cost might be.

“The usual fine for an OWI first offense is approaching $1,000 if not more, depending on your blood alcohol level. Your driver’s license will be revoked for at least six months, and you’ll have to have an alcohol assessment,” says Joe Veenstra, an attorney for Johns, Flaherty & Collins. He says without a doubt, the alternatives to drunk driving should be an easy decision. “Make a plan for when you leave to not drive and to get your car later. It’s certainly worth to take an Uber, cab, whatever, spend $20 to avoid $1,000 minimum problem, let alone injuring someone.”

In Wisconsin, if you’re caught drinking an driving with a child under the age of 16 in the car, fines start at $1,379, you’ll lose your license for at least one year, and spend a minimum of five days behind bars.

Amber Meyer

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