Before a car accident that nearly killed a 19-year-old woman, Ricky Adair, then 36, had been convicted of drunken driving at least nine times, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the third of a series on Wisconsin’s drunk-driving problem. The 1999 accident and Adair’s other drunken-driving offenses came with years of financial and emotional costs: to the taxpayers, to society, and to Adair, his victim, and their families. Adair’s drinking and driving has cost nearly $365,000 since 1985, the Journal Sentinel found. Nearly $240,000 of it came out of other people’s pockets in the form of tax dollars or insurance payouts.
In 2007 alone, there were 8,327 alcohol-related crashes in the state. The costs are enormous. “A lot of people don’t realize that the diseases (related to alcoholism) and the accidents are paid for by pretty much everybody – by everybody who is insured and everybody who pays taxes,” said economist Henrick Harwood, who has studied costs of drinking for nearly three decades for the National Institutes of Health. Every year, Wisconsin taxpayers pay $2.7 billion in alcohol-related police and court costs; incarceration; crash investigation and cleanup; lost productivity; academic failures; and premature deaths, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.