Friday, February 15, 2019

OWI snowmobiling reflects WI's alcohol abuse picture

I wrote a series years ago for The Milwaukee Journal about dangers posed by alcohol abuse beyond the more-widely known OWI-related tragedies on the highways.

Examples included fatal falls, home accidents and fires, and snowmobile crashes.

And I remember reporting data showing that in the late 1980's, all nine Wisconsin snowmobile fatalities in one year were alcohol-related.

That kind of regrettable data is piling up again, according to news reports and this DNR release:

DNR wardens & local agencies investigating five weekend fatal snowmobile incidents 
  • Calumet County: About 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9, a single snowmobile operator was traveling on Lake Winnebago when it appears the machine struck a snowbank or an ice crack. The machine landed atop the operator. The Calumet County Sheriff's Department and the DNR wardens are jointly investigating. Alcohol and speed are possible factors. 
  • Forest County: About 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9, two snowmobiles were traveling eastbound on a snowmobile trail on the frozen Pickerel Lake when a passenger and operator on the lead snowmobile were ejected. The ejected passenger then was struck by the second snowmobile, which was traveling behind as part of the same group. The passenger was severely injured and died prior to a medical flight to hospital. Alcohol and speed are possible factors. 
Separately, it is encouraging that Gov. Evers is interested in getting tougher on first-time OWI offenders, and two GOP legislators are again promoting legislation to do just that, regardless of the strength of powerful lobbies and other legislators' callous disinterest in the facts:

Also encouraging: media focus, like this ongoing series at TMJ4, and by state government through WisDOT:
'Drive Sober' campaign launches in worst state for excessive drinking
However, the larger picture is that Wisconsin tolerates alcohol abuse in ways that other states do not.
[Wisconsin is] the only state that treats a first [OWI] offense as a civil violation rather than a crime.  
And pays a price in lives, medical costs criminal justice consequences and negative media.

Wisconsin dominates drunkest-cities' rankings. At what cost? 
Nothing to boast about 
You can add Wisconsin's persistent alcohol abuse to this compilation of negative state rankings, as Wisconsin - - as it did last year - - put ten cities on this list of the country's 20 most-drunken municipalities.

No other state came close, so call it life in the state of denial.
Green Bay named drunkest city in the US; 10 Wisconsin cities listed as top 20 drunkest
The consequences in Wisconsin lives lost, families damaged and money wasted is well-known and heavily, repeatedly documented by public officials:
The per capita alcohol consumption rate in Wisconsin is 1.3 times higher than the national rate. The alcohol consumption rate for adults is 10 percentage points above the national rate (63% vs. 53%). Heavy drinking among adults is more common in Wisconsin than the nation as a whole. Wisconsin’s rate of adult binge drinking (22%) is third highest across all states and U.S. territories. Wisconsin women of childbearing age consume alcohol at levels higher than their national peers. 
Consequences of Alcohol Consumption Outpace National Rates
Given Wisconsin’s alcohol consumption patterns, it is not surprising that the rates at which Wisconsin experiences the consequences associated with alcohol use have also tended to be higher than national rates. Since 2008, rates of alcohol abuse and dependence have been higher in Wisconsin than the nation as a whole. Wisconsin's rate of death from alcohol-related liver cirrhosis has risen since 2008 as has the rate of alcohol-related deaths from causes other than liver cirrhosis. The latest available data show that Wisconsin has 1.2 times the national rate of arrests for operating while intoxicated (OWI) and almost three times the national rate of arrests for liquor law violations. However, since 2010, Wisconsin’s rate of alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths has been similar to the national rate.
Alcohol is the most frequently consumed substance of use and misuse in Wisconsin, contributing to consequences that affect all state residents.
In 2015, alcohol was a factor in at least 2,008 deaths and 2,907 motor vehicle crash injuries in Wisconsin. In 2013, the economic burden resulting from excessive alcohol use totaled $6.8 billion dollars.
Those data were published in 2016, nearly six years after Walker and the GOP took over state government.
They reflect many of the same outcomes published in 2012 by the same officials 21 months after Walker came to power. In other words, little progress.
Also for the record:
This guest post here more than ten years ago, this one six years ago and these 2015 state findings about alcohol abuse which have not translated them

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can you hold my beers while I read this?