Albert Lea Tribune, Minn.
ST. PAUL — Midway through a month-long statewide DWI enforcement campaign, preliminary reports from 191 law enforcement agencies indicate 823 DWI arrests were made Dec. 1–11. Nearly 400 agencies are conducting increased patrols through New Year’s Eve. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety is coordinating the campaign that includes approximately 8,500 extra hours of DWI patrols.
Multiple agencies made arrests where the driver registered a blood alcohol concentration of 0.30 or higher (the legal limit is 0.08), including Dakota, Goodhue, Martin, Olmsted and south St. Louis counties’ sheriff’s offices; State Patrol St. Cloud district; and Bloomington, Robbinsdale and St. Cloud police departments.
In Minnesota during the month of December, 2008–2010, alcohol-related crashes accounted for 34 traffic deaths. During this same period, 8,503 motorists were arrested for DWI.
Consequences for a DWI include loss of license for up to a year, up to $20,000 in legal costs and heightened insurance rates and possible jail time.
On average, there were 170 alcohol-related traffic deaths in each of the last five years in Minnesota — accounting for one-third of all state’s total road deaths annually. These crashes and fatalities have been declining in recent years, and DPS officials say enhanced DWI enforcement campaigns have been a major factor in Minnesota’s continuing trend of lower alcohol-related traffic deaths.
There were 131 alcohol-related traffic deaths in 2010 in the state, the fewest on record and down 21 percent from five years ago. Still, during 2006–2010, 791 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes — reflecting impaired driving as a factor annually in one-third of the state’s road fatalities.
Each year, 30,000 motorists are arrested for DWI; one in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on record.
A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands in costs and possible jail time. Stronger DWI sanctions are also now in effect for all repeat DWI offenders, as well as for motorists arrested for a first-time DWI with a 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level. Under these sanctions, offenders must use ignition interlock for at least one year or face at least a year without driving privileges.
Interlock requires a driver to provide a breath sample under 0.02 for the vehicle to start. Safety officials say interlock ensures DWI offenders are driving legally and safely. Potential participants of program can learn more at www.minnesotaignitioninterlock.org.
DPS encourages Minnesotans to:
• Plan for a safe ride — Designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation, or stay at the location of the celebration. Families should let each other know that they will be available to offer a safe ride home.
• Report impaired driving — Call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Witnesses must be prepared to provide location, license plate and observed dangerous behavior.
Minnesotans are also encouraged to “give the gift of a safe lift” with a “Designated Driver Gift Card.” Card-givers offer to serve as a designated driver to support safe and sober roads. Gift cards can be downloaded at ots.dps.mn.gov.
Enhanced DWI patrols are a component of the state’s core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.