ST. PAUL — Drunk drivers in the state’s 13 counties with highest numbers of alcohol-related deaths and serious injuries will see increased DWI patrols this weekend, May 4–5. Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety officials encourage people to plan ahead for a sober ride.
The following 13 counties accounted for nearly half of the state’s alcohol-related deaths (202) and half of the state’s serious injuries (462) during 2008–2010: 1. Hennepin, 2. Ramsey, 3. Anoka, 4. St. Louis, 5. Dakota, 6. Wright, 7. Olmsted, 8. Rice, 9. Washington, 10. Stearns, 11. Sherburne, 12. Scott and 13. Carver.
Heightened enforcement in the 13 counties began in October 2011, as part of the 12-month federally funded enforcement program (Oct. 2011–Sept. 2012). The efforts include the combined resources of the State Patrol and county and city agencies.
“There are so many safe alternatives, so many options instead of getting behind the wheel after drinking,” says Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. “If you don’t make a smart decision, you’re going to end up paying the price.”
Alcohol-related fatalities, injuries and DWIs have dropped in recent years — there were 131 alcohol-related deaths in 2010, the lowest on record. Officials say enforcement and education is contributing to this trend. Still, each year alcohol-related crashes account for one-third of the state’s total road deaths.
Agencies in the 13 counties will use high-visibility enforcement tactics to alert motorists of increased enforcement — including electronic message board signage and heavy patrols along specific corridors.
Advertising will accompany the enforcement to encourage Minnesotans to avoid driving impaired, including TV spots (“Tapped Out” and “Slammer”), and a website.
A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands in costs and possible jail time. Stronger sanctions are in effect for all repeat DWI offenders, as well as for motorists arrested for a first-time DWI with an alcohol-concentration level of 0.16 and above. These DWI offenders must use ignition interlock for at least a year or face at least one year without driving privileges. Interlock requires the driver to provide a breath sample under 0.02 for the vehicle to start.
About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behavior and reduce deaths and serious injuries on Minnesota roads. OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for child seats for needy families program. OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety initiative.
Recent OTS Activity
Preliminary results from a statewide distracted driving enforcement effort April 19 resulted in 97 texting while driving citations and more than 2,400 vehicle stops.
OTS released a study conducted by the University of Minnesota that found the primary seat belt law has resulted in 68 fewer deaths since the law was enacted nearly three years ago.
OTS is coordinating a pilot program, parent-teen driver awareness courses, to educate parents about their responsibilities to train and monitor their new teen driver.
OTS partners with AAA Minnesota/Iowa for the eighth year of the Buckle Up Teens! TV Commercial Challenge. Teens create TV PSAs to educate peers. Voting for the top spot begins next week.