Brown County sheriff’s deputies were led on a chase through neighborhoods and businesses in Howard in the middle of the night Thursday.
The driver behind the wheel? Turns out it wasn’t only a teenager but a girl deputies say was drunk.
The deputies’ dashcam video shows the car speeding down Velp Avenue, nearly sideswiping a squad car.
A deputy actually thought it was another police car coming up behind him, then saw the driver speeding, swerving and spin out in an intersection.
He eventually stopped her to discover the driver was 17 years old with a blood-alcohol content of .31 – almost 4 times the legal limit for adults.
“That’s dangerous behavior that could have cost somebody their life,” Capt. Dan Sandberg, Brown County Sheriff’s Office, said.
Sandberg was relieved the deputy who captured this dashcam was in the right place at the right time. No one had called in any complaints about an impaired driver until he saw her.
“During that pursuit, made a couple of dangerous maneuvers, crashing into a snowbank and spinning out in an intersection.”
Sandberg said speeds exceeded 60 miles per hour at times.
The driver swerved into oncoming traffic, pushed a semi to the edge of the road, then drove up on a curb, through snow, and took out a mailbox.
She eventually stopped and was arrested for OWI and fleeing an officer.
“That’s unbelievable. Seventeen years old at a .31. That obviously shows we’ve still got work to do,” Sandberg said.
That’s why the Brown County OWI Task Force, which started four years ago this week, isn’t going anywhere.
Sandberg believes there are still habits and a culture that need to be addressed.
“Changing that culture takes time, and I think we’re going down that right direction.”
The numbers show that is happening. The OWI Task Force says alcohol-related fatalities are down from 11 the year before the program started to 2 involving drivers who were above the .08 limit last year.
“We weren’t sure when we first started. Who knows what kind of impact we really thought we could have? Certainly it’s exceeded our expectations,” Mike Panosh, the task force program manager, said.
No one expected the culture of drinking to change overnight. But even bar owners, who admit they’ve lost some money because of the task force, say any change is for the right reason.
“A lot of the people I know, they’ll go have 2 or 3 drinks and they’re going home,” Stadium View sports bar owner Jerry Watson said. “I guess the one really good part is that the deaths on the highway are way down, and that’s what they’re after.”
But scenes like the one in Howard show there’s always more to be done to get the message out.