Over the course of the fall drunk driving cases have spiked around campus, though none have been Marquette students or have been affiliated with the university.
Although Department of Public Safety officers have been able to track down a few intoxicated drivers over the past two months, they are actually unable to pull over those they suspect are drunk. Instead, they must get the license plate, call the Milwaukee Police Department and follow the driver until MPD arrives.
“We observe and advise MPD,” said Department of Public Safety’s Captain Russell Shaw. “If they pull over on their own accord, then we will certainly approach them and … talk to them to see what their condition may be.”
DPS has primarily seen people pass out at the steering wheel while at a stoplight. When the driver fails to proceed despite a green light, the officers pick up a cue that something is wrong.
“At that time is when we would call Milwaukee Police Department, and it becomes a safety issue for not only the community, but the drivers themselves at that point,” Shaw said.
Alexandra Lombardo, a junior in the College of Communication who has a car on campus, expressed her gratitude for the DPS officers being able to catch the intoxicated drivers.
“It makes me feel a lot safer because I know that they are doing everything that they can to protect all of us,” Lombardo said. “I don’t hesitate to drive my car as much now.”
Katherine Murray, a freshman in the College of Communication, explained how living on a campus in an urban environment can heighten the issue of drunk driving, especially for students who walk often.
“One of the downsides of going to a school in an urban environment is that community members of the Milwaukee area travel frequently through the campus’s roads,” Murray said. “Living in McCormick and being a communication student who walks all the way to Johnston Hall sometimes can be tough, and I would like feeling safe when I walk so much.”
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunk driving in the U.S. In a nationwide study released in 2006, 26.4 percent of Wisconsin adults admitted to driving while drunk. In 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation reported that there were 44,000 convictions for drunk driving.
Despite these statistics, Shaw said that Marquette does not usually face this problem. He said that occurrences like these are pretty rare on campus.
“Honestly, we don’t get a lot of this,” Shaw said. “The fact that we are out there on the street patrolling, they could have just easily happened just blocks west of us or east of us. It’s good that we are finding them because you don’t know what safety issues can happen when someone’s driving impaired.”