Traffic laws meet the Ice Capades

| Monday, October 18, 2004

We all know driving drunk can get you a ticket – or worse. But in Wisconsin, the law doesn’t just apply to the roads.

An appeals court ruled recently that residents of the state are also prohibited from driving drunk on frozen lakes.

The case came out of the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department, which was called to Beaver Dam Lake after residents reported a pickup truck doing doughnuts on the lake, and chasing snowmobilers and ice fishermen. The pickup was running at night with its headlights off, and several times rammed the shoreline.

When police arrived, the driver – who by that time had blown a tire and had one wheel spun into the ice a few inches – reportedly told the officers he had a couple of beers and was driving home – across the frozen lake.

A circuit court overturned the charge of driving while intoxicated, saying the lake did not, under the state’s laws, qualify as a “premises held out to the public for use of their motor vehicles.”

However, the appeals court – noting that the law was intended to protect all motorists, and also noting that snowmobilers on the lake were deserving of that protection – overturned the ruling.