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Dave Boxum  651-201-7569
Scott Wasserman  651-201-7571
September 01, 2016
Drunk Driving-Related Deaths Edge Higher But on Overall Decline
New 2015 Report Shows DWI Arrests at 35-Year Low and Fewer Repeat Offenders

ST. PAUL – Attitudes toward drunk driving are changing for the better among Minnesotans as fewer DWIs and drunk driving-related deaths are occurring across the state. The new 2015 Minnesota Motor Vehicle Impaired Driving Facts report highlights encouraging trends in areas such as fatalities, DWIs and repeat offenders.

While overall numbers show positive change, the percentage of traffic deaths and injuries where alcohol plays a role is still much too high.

“It’s been a long road, but enforcement, laws and awareness are helping shift Minnesotan’s attitudes about how dangerous and irresponsible it is to get behind the wheel after drinking,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “That said, the problem remains because we’re still seeing too many lives affected and lost by poor choices behind the wheel. Please think about what you stand to lose if you choose to drive impaired and plan a sober ride.”

Fewer Tragedies in Preventable Crashes
Drunk driving-related fatalities last year increased from 2014, but they have decreased by 8 percent in the last five years — 95 fatalities in 2015 compared with 103 in 2011. The number of lives lost has remained below 100 since 2012.  
Drunk Driving Fatalities 

​2015 ​2014 ​2013 ​2012 ​2011 ​2010 ​2009 ​2008 ​2007 ​2006
​95 ​88 ​81 ​95 ​103 ​112 ​101 ​129 ​164 ​134

Encouraging Trend in DWI Arrests
An increasing number of motorists are making smart choices behind the wheel with DWI arrests declining by 40 percent in the last 10 years. Last year’s figures show there were 25,027 arrests compared with 42,007 in 2006.

DWI History

​2015 ​2014 ​2013 ​2012 ​2011 ​2010 ​2009 ​2008 ​2007 ​2006
​25,027 ​25,386 ​26,032 ​28,658 ​29,504 ​30,009 ​32,995 ​35,869 ​38,765 ​42,007
Drunk Driving Recidivism becoming Less Common
Most DWI arrests are first-time offenders with those arrests making up well over half of impaired driving violations in 2015. Repeat arrests for DWI are becoming less common.
  • Among drivers getting their first DWI in 2000, 21 percent recidivated within 48 months. For drivers with their first DWI in 2011, the 48 month recidivism rate was 16 percent.
  • Twenty-five percent of drivers getting their second DWI in 2000 received a third DWI within 48 months. For drivers arrested for a second DWI violation in 2011, the 48 month recidivism rate was 18 percent.
  • Twenty-three percent of drivers arrested for their third DWI in 2000 recidivated within 48 months, compared to 14 percent for those with their third DWI violation in 2011.

Ignition Interlock Program Growing
Repeat DWI offenders, as well as first-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level, must use ignition interlock in order to regain legal driving privileges or face at least one year without a driver’s license. More DWI offenders are using the devices to safely drive on Minnesota roads.

  • The number of interlock devices installed has nearly doubled in the last three years, from 5,276 in 2013 to 9,780 in 2015.
  • Since 2013, 12,074 people have graduated from the interlock program.

DWI Conviction Rates across Minnesota Counties
The percentage of DWI arrests resulting in a criminal conviction on an impaired driving charge varies by county. There were 25,027 impaired arrests in Minnesota last year. To date, 71 percent resulted in convictions, but it is expected to increase to approximately 85 percent as cases are settled. County highlights include:

  • Rates lower than 60 percent: Kanabec (54), Pine (59), Pipestone and Murray Counties (47)
  • Rates at 90 percent or higher: Cook (96), Wilkin (93) and Watonwan (90)
  • Hennepin and Ramsey Counties had conviction rates of 66 and 68 percent respectively.

Little Change in Alcohol Involvement in Traffic Fatalities and Injuries

  • In 2015, drunk driving-related deaths were 23 percent of all traffic fatalities. The 5-year average is 24 percent.
  • Alcohol-related injuries were 7 percent of all traffic injuries last year. The 5-year average is 8 percent.

Extra DWI Enforcement
To keep Minnesotans safe, more than 300 agencies are working to take drunk drivers off the road as part of the extra DWI enforcement campaign now through Labor Day. Erica Bodell knows how important that is to keep Minnesotans safe. To kick off the extra enforcement campaign, Erica shared how she and her three children’s lives were changed when a drunk driver hit her vehicle in November 2015, paralyzing her 3-year-old daughter, and injuring herself and her two sons.

Friends don’t let Friends Drink and Drive

  • Plan for a safe ride — designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.
  • Speak Up – Offer to be a designated driver or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere.
  • Buckle up — the best defense against a drunk driver.
  • Report drunk driving — call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.


  • Driving While Impaired (DWI) is a violation for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Alcohol-related: any evidence of alcohol detected in a driver, pedestrian or bicyclist.
  • Impaired-related: any driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.
  • Drunk-driving-related: any driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.

About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.

About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.

DPS-OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety program. 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 medical and trauma response.

Recent DPS-OTS Activity and Statistics

  • Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2015 is a summary of traffic crashes derived from law enforcement reports and describes how, why and where crashes occurred and who was involved.
  • Law enforcement statewide issued 13,214 citations for unsafe speeds and 1,543 seat belt citations during the extra speed enforcement campaign July 8 – 22.
  • Law enforcement handed out 7,233 seat belt and 213 child restraint citations during the most recent Click It or Ticket extra enforcement campaign.
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