OWI night was filled with fun and laughs. Getting to put three inebriated volunteers through a gauntlet of sobriety tests and taking turns wearing “beer-goggles” was entertaining, to be sure, and at times it was easy to forget that we were learning about something that causes over 10,000 fatalities a year. (U.S. Department of Transportation report on traffic safety, 2012)
It’s even more potent an issue here in Wisconsin, as, since 2009, we’ve had the highest rate of drunken driving in the nation, with 36 percent of all fatal traffic accidents being alcohol-related, according to the Wisconsin DOT.
The myths and stories surrounding OWIs are a dime a dozen. We’ve all heard them; tests that seem like cruel tricks and officers asking for feats that seem impossible to a person in a normal state of mind, let alone someone who’s had a few drinks.
For example, the infamous “backwards alphabet” test that many of us have probably tried for fun while sober, unsuccessfully.
But OWI procedure is pretty by-the-book. The officers told us they won’t try to make someone take a test they couldn’t pass themselves. We were reminded time and time again by the officers: “these tests are not designed to make you fail—unless you’ve been drinking.”
One of the biggest handicaps for an officer is the law; which is why sobriety tests are pretty standardized. If a lawyer can argue that a test wasn’t fair or doesn’t show that you’re drunk, chances are the officer would just be shooting themselves in the foot.
There’s a lot of bitterness attached to the policing of drunk driving, yet it’s one of the most common things an officer deals with day-to-day, and not of their own choice.
As much of a hassle as it seems for the driver, it’s even more so for an officer. OWI stops take time—a lot of it. The sobriety tests themselves took at least ten minutes for us when we did them, and that was with completely willing and obedient participants. Add a stubborn drunk with an attitude, and a few OWI stops make a long night for an officer on duty. And that’s before all the paperwork.
The cost of an OWI is high; between insurance, fines and countless other woes, the tally can be in the neighborhood of $10,000. But considering the alternative—the cost of replacing a totaled car, hospital bills, or in the worst case scenario, the cost of a funeral—I for one am glad there’s someone out there trying to stop it.