Extra OWI enforcement in La Crosse County

La Crosse County law enforcement is stepping up Operating While Intoxicated patrol.

A grant is allowing several agencies in La Crosse County to assign a few more squad cars to make sure drivers are obeying the law.

The most recent numbers for the Wisconsin Department Of Transportation show more than 33,000 people were convicted of drunk driving in 2012.

The Badger state has also been labeled as having the highest rate of drunk driving in the U.S., which is why the Sheriff’s Department said grants that allow the La Crosse County Traffic Safety Task Force to increase patrols are important in keeping roads safe.

Deputy Joseph Anderson has been with the La Crosse County Sheriff for about three-and-a-half years.

On Saturday he is out patrolling a few hours before his normal shift starts as part of an OWI enforcement grant.

“We’re looking for traffic violations, equipment violations, any reason for conducting a traffic stop and then once we make contact with the driver we’re looking to any signs of impairment,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the goal is not to pull over as many people as possible, it’s to ensure that drivers obey the law.

“We don’t want them to go out and get drunk and not make a plan, we want them to think ahead, be responsible, make arrangements for a ride so that they can get home safely,” Anderson said.

He said when there is visibly more law enforcement on patrol, the public will most likely take a few extra minutes to plan a safe and sober ride home.

In 2012, more than 200 people were killed in alcohol-related accidents in Wisconsin.

With additional OWI patrol throughout the year, that number will hopefully decrease in 2015.

“With us being out here (in) higher numbers, we’re hoping that people will take the precautions so that they don’t run into us and they don’t get hurt on their way home,” Anderson said.

Anderson said this type of additional patrol is done about every month in La Crosse County.

Last month’s patrol brought 50 citations and 81 warnings.

There will be more enforcement later this week as well. On Tuesday, law enforcement in La Crosse County will be watching for seatbelt violations.