ST. PAUL — Statewide law enforcement agencies will deliver added DWI patrols in December, the peak month for alcohol-related crashes during the last three years. The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over heightened enforcement begins Fri., Dec. 2; extra enforcement will also run nationwide.
Municipal and county sheriff law enforcement agencies will partner with the Minnesota State Patrol in the state’s campaign coordinated by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety. The effort will include 8,500 extra hours of DWI patrols on the roads.
There were 1,097 alcohol-related crashes in Decembers, 2008–2010, resulting in 24 fatalities. Despite the high number of crashes, December is among the lowest months for alcohol-related fatalities.
“There is always a great potential for alcohol-related traffic crashes surrounding holiday celebrations when people don’t plan ahead for a sober ride,” says Col. Kevin Daly, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol. “If you make the mistake of driving impaired, you will face the consequences.”
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.
The campaign is supported by a statewide advertising campaign featuring the "Elf Arrested for DWI!" TV PSA.
To-date in 2011 there have been 313 traffic deaths compared to 369 at this time in 2010.
Enhanced DWI patrols are a component of the state’s core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). 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.