EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - For a town of about 69,000 people, Eau Claire ranks as the 9th drunkest city in the country.
That's higher than a city with more than eight times as many people: Milwaukee. Lt. Les Mlsna with the Wisconsin State Patrol said they are committed to cracking down on OWI’s.
“We focus on detecting people who are operating under the influence,” Mlsna said.
According to a report from 24/7 Wall Street, for every 10,000 residents in Eau Claire, there are 6.4 bars; the second most of any U.S. city. It said the accessibility of alcohol leads to more drunk drivers on the road.
“Anytime they are impaired, whether it be fatigue, alcohol or other drugs, it limits their ability to get to those places safety and impacts other drivers as well,” Mlsna said.
According to Lt. Mlsna, 82 arrests in Eau Claire County in 2019 were due to impaired driving.
“I've worked in different areas across the state; it seems to be pretty consistent.” Mlsna said. “Whether it is alcohol that people are under the influence or we have a lot of other drugs that people drive under the influence of those.”
He said there tends to be an increase in OWI related incidents during the holiday season.
“It seems like there is a steady flow of people that operate under the influence, a lot of times during the holidays it picks up a little bit.” Mlsna said. “I think that is just because there is more times for people to socialize, go to events and make the poor decision to get into the vehicle and operate while they are under the influence”.
According to the Eau Claire High Risk Drinking Prevention Action Team, 30% of Eau Claire County adults admitted to binge drinking. That’s compared to 24% in Wisconsin and 16% nationwide.
“If they are going to indulge in adult beverages at a particular party, having that safe ride home, having a designated driver, taking a cab home or making other arraignments besides them getting in that vehicle and driving themselves is the important thing,” Mlsna said.
According to the report, more than 43% of driving deaths in Eau Claire were linked to alcohol.
“We do have extra patrols out on the highway,” Mlsna said. “We use the holidays or weekend time periods where people go out more so we can be in a position to observe more and get those people off the road.”
12 of the top 20 cities on the list are from Wisconsin.
The La Crosse/ Onalaska area came in at number six. It also holds the distinction of having more bars per capita than any other U.S. city. Wausau was 11th; Milwaukee was ranked 17th. As for the top spot, that goes to Appleton.