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How Wisconsin cops approach drunk driving patrols


For most Wisconsin drivers, seeing a police car can induce feelings of nervousness even if the drivers are not breaking any laws. Drivers slow down, move out of the way and allow police vehicles plenty of space before resuming their previous driving behaviors. While the majority of drivers do not get stopped, those who do face the intimidating process of dealing with law enforcement.

A Wisconsin police department recently allowed a reporter to accompany an officer on an evening drunk driving patrol. The story demonstrates just what officers do and what they look for when they are preparing to make traffic stops.

The story states that officers use their car-based computers to check the license plate numbers of vehicles to determine if the driver could have any outstanding infractions. In this case, the officer checked the plates of a vehicle that did not seem to be breaking any laws and another for which the driver did not match the owner's description. Officers are therefore looking for driver issues not related to drinking even when on drunk driving patrols.

Also, officers look for some specific signs of driving that may indicate intoxication such as excessive lane changes. When an officer did pull over an individual suspected of drunk driving and who was driving the wrong way down the road, the officer subjected the driver to several field sobriety tests. The roadside tests gave the officer sufficient cause to believe that the individual was intoxicated and the driver was taken to a law enforcement station where her BAC was found to be over the legal limit.

While not all of the traffic stops that officers make on drunk driving patrols are for suspected intoxication, drivers should be aware that police officers are vigilantly monitoring their driving behaviors and the propriety of their vehicles' registrations and licenses. This story demonstrates that officers may have good reasons to pull people over, but through careful and responsible driving most people can avoid being subjected to traffic stops.

Source: The Journal Times, "A night on drunk patrol: The Journal Times rides along with deputies in Rochester," Luke Feuerherm, July 7, 2013

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