The nightmare for the Patoka family began in August of 2015.
Bound for vacation, Roger, Paula, and their two children’s nighttime drive through Shawano County ended when a drunk driver crossed the center line on Highway 47 and hit the Patokas’ two vehicles: Roger in front on a motorcycle, and Paula and the children who followed in a Chevy Suburban.
Paula and their two children survived; Roger died at the scene.
“We… [brought] his suitcase home and kind of just walked around the house like, ‘What do we do now?’” Paula said.
“It’s so surreal going back in the house and it’s been a nightmare, nightmare ever since.”
The other driver, who died at the scene, was 42-year-old Tony M. Garvey of De Pere, according to a crash report. His blood-alcohol level at the time of the incident was .252, according to the crash report, more than three times the legal limit. He had at least three prior drunk driving convictions, records show.
Stories like the Patokas’ are the motivation behind a new focus at NBC 26: Project Drive Sober.
The goal is to encourage northeast Wisconsin drivers to be sober. The initiative is not about drinking; instead, Project Drive Sober confronts the choice to drive after drinking. The issue will be a mainstay on NBC 26 newscasts and nbc26.com. We will work with our partners at TODAY'S TMJ 4 in Milwaukee as we tell stories that impact all of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is the only state in the country where a driver’s first operating while intoxicated, or OWI, offense is not considered criminal by the court system, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Instead, a first OWI is a civil offense and comes with a fine.
Alcohol-related crashes killed 169 people in Wisconsin in 2017, compared to an average of approximately 230 alcohol-related crash deaths per year in the state over the last decade, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
“We’re talking about alcoholism is a part of the problem, especially for the repeat drunk drivers,” said Rep. Jim Ott, R – Mequon.
“But nobody’s addicted to driving.”
Do you have a tip, comment, or idea for Project: Drive Sober? Call our hotline at 866 WI-SOBER or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.