Journal Times editorial: Naming and shaming to curb drunken driving
Our Perspective

Journal Times editorial: Naming and shaming to curb drunken driving

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As we’ve written before in this space, Wisconsin has a problem with drinking and driving. One sheriff has taken a novel approach to curbing that.

Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt announced earlier this month that his county will publish on Facebook names and photos of people arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Schmidt said he and his deputies have focused on speed, stop signs, public engagement, and operating while intoxicated enforcement to keep the roads and drivers safe, WTMJ-TV reported Aug. 9 on its website.

“After about 20 years in law enforcement I’ve gone to a lot of fatal crashes, and I’ve seen a lot of impaired drivers. I’ve arrested a lot of impaired drivers, and the story never seems to change,” Schmidt said.

In an effort to change that story, Dodge County plans to publish names, pictures, and the details of the violation for anyone arrested for an OWI.

“You could call it public shaming, but if it saves a life we’ve accomplished our goal. I think what you need to do is look at the other side at the family members who were impacted by these crashes or they’ve lost a loved one,” said Schmidt.

“We have a problem. We’ve had a number of alcohol-related crashes this year, some of them have been fatal,” Schmidt said.

In this state, that problem is not unique to Dodge County.

Wisconsin ranks 20th in population but ranked among the top 15 states for drunken-driving arrests every year from 2005 through 2017, according to the latest statistics compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. From 2005 through 2009, the state ranked in the top 10 for operating-while-intoxicated arrests.

In 2015, nearly 200 people were killed and an additional 2,900 were injured in alcohol-related crashes in the state, according to state Department of Transportation data.

If public embarrassment prevents someone arrested on suspicion of drunken driving from ever doing it again, we think it’s an idea worth trying.

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