50 Years On, a Dramatic Sign Warns About Wisconsin Drunk Driving

You might not have seen it, even if you’ve been in Wisconsin all your life. It sits at the intersection of Highway BD and Highway 33 in Baraboo, about an hour north of Madison.

Who put it up? No one seems too sure, but residents agree it’s been around for a long time. The car in the illustration looks like a 1960s or early 1970s machine, and drivers in the area have been seeing it for fifty years or more. One former resident claimed on Facebook that it was there by 1960. Another says it was repainted at one point.

The uniquely Wisconsinite aspect of the sign is the emphasis on beer. Beer is a very popular in the state, which ranks number 6 in annual per capita beer consumption (35.8 gallons per year). A 2015 report showed Wisconsin to be the nation’s heaviest-drinking state, with the average number of drinks consumed each year to be 148 drinks higher than the national average.  The state also reports more binge drinkers than any other. Little surprise that Wisconsin drunk driving is a problem.

Beer is sometimes considered a “soft” alcoholic option. People have been known to say, “I’m not drunk – I’ve only been drinking beer.” Yet beer can be as intoxicating as any other booze, provided the amount is large enough. And in Wisconsin, it often is.

The sign, then, is directed at people who think they can drive because they’ve only had beer to drink. Ultimately it will take a lot more than one sign, however dramatic, to change the state’s drinking and driving habits.  But we hope it stays up just the same.

To see the sign in its natural habitat, go here.