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Minnesota alcohol-related deaths declining

Albert Lea Tribune, Minn. –

New Year’s Eve always has the potential to be a dangerous night on the roads, but the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety reports a significant drop in alcohol-related deaths and serious injuries during the holiday in recent years.

According to officials, the promising statistics indicate revelers are appearing to do the right thing on the holiday by planning ahead for a sober ride.

Data from the last 10 years show a reduction in New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day alcohol-related deaths and injuries:

• 2001-06: 23 deaths and nine were alcohol-related (39 percent), and 28 of 58 (48 percent) serious injuries were alcohol-related. There were 1,552 DWI arrests during this period.

• 2006-2011: 13 deaths and only two were alcohol-related (15 percent — lower than the state’s annual alcohol-related fatality rate of more than 30 percent). Of the 33 serious injuries, nine (27 percent) were alcohol-related. There were 1,224 DWI arrests for this period (2011 DWIs not available).

“Awareness of DWI enforcement and New Year’s Eve partiers making smart plans for sober rides home have made the holiday safer,” said Jean Ryan, DPS Office of Traffic Safety impaired driving coordinator. “It’s important we carry the safe planning habit forward for all year long.”

Many agencies statewide increased DWI patrols on New Year’s Eve to encourage smart decisions.

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.

There were 131 alcohol-related deaths in 2010 — a record low — and nearly 30,000 motorists were 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 now in effect for all repeat DWI offenders, as well as for first-time DWI offenders 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.

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