ST. PAUL – Driving while impaired is a choice that too many people are making again and again: 41 percent of drivers arrested for a DWI in 2015 in Minnesota had at least one previous drunk driving conviction.
No matter how many DWIs a driver has, more than 300 law enforcement agencies (police, sheriff and state patrol) will be looking to take them off the road during extra enforcement starting tomorrow and running through Sept. 3. The overtime shifts are funded through the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
DWI Courts and Repeat Offenders
As part of the broader effort to protect Minnesotans from the dangers of drunk driving, the DWI Court program focuses on eliminating repeat DWI offenses. The program, bringing together drug and alcohol treatment and the criminal justice system, has shown to be effective in reducing rearrests and jail time for repeat offenders. An evaluation of Minnesota’s DWI courts found the program has reduced recidivism up to 69 percent, and participant completion rates were well above the national average.
“DWI Court embraces a holistic approach to working with offenders and offers a path to sobriety, including the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the person,” said Judge Marta Chou, Hennepin County DWI Courts. “The result is offenders are changed for the better, our roads are safer and lives are saved. We offer an alternative path to change and save lives.”
There are nearly 266,000 drivers in Minnesota with more than one DWI on their record.
Janet Carlson received three DWIs in three years with her third arrest occurring after she hit another vehicle. After graduating from DWI Court in 2013, Carlson says it’s helped her from repeating the mistakes of the past.
"I believe DWI court saved my life. It is not lost on me how horrifying my decision to drive while drunk was,” said Carlson.” I know only seconds and inches kept me from killing innocent people. There are no excuses, I knew I needed to take responsibility for my reckless decisions. I and I alone made the decision to repeatedly get behind the wheel of a car while drunk. I had honestly lost all hope. DWI court gave me not only hope, but support and accountability. Most importantly, it gave me a supportive sober community and an opportunity to repay a debt, by getting the message out there to stop the potentially deadly choice to drink and drive.”
Preliminary numbers show there were 73 drunk driving-related fatalities last year compared with 95 in 2015, a 22 percent decrease. While even one DWI arrest is unacceptable, DWI arrests are trending downward.
"Through education and enforcement, most Minnesotans are making the right choice when it comes to lining up a sober ride. The state has seen a steady decline in DWI arrests over the past ten years, but we still have a long ways to go," said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. "One drunk driver is one too many. Those who choose to drive after drinking risk not only their lives but the lives of innocent people across Minnesota. We can significantly reduce the amount of fatalities on our roads if everyone would plan a sober ride before every single time they decide to drink." Laboring to Find a Sober Ride
Why Labor Day is the most dangerous holiday period to be on the road with drunk drivers is something Minnesotans should all be asking and trying to change. In a five year period (2011-2015), four people were killed in drunk driving-related crashes with many more drunk drivers risking the lives of motorists.
Holiday DWI Arrests per Hour (2012 – 2016)
- Labor Day – 4.6
- July 4 – 4.3
- St. Patrick’s Day – 4.2
- Memorial Day – 4.2
- Thanksgiving – 4.1
- New Year’s Eve – 3.9
- Super Bowl – 3.4
- Christmas – 2.8
A DWI offense can result in loss of license for one to six years, thousands of dollars in costs and possible jail time. 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. Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.
Commit to a sober ride
- 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. If you see an impaired person about to get behind the wheel, get them a safe ride home.
- 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.
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
- More than 13,000 drivers were cited for speeding violations during the July 7 – 23 extra enforcement period.
- For the third year in a row, seat belt citations decreased during the summer Click It or Ticket campaign. During the two-week extra enforcement wave, officers, deputies and troopers reported 6,771 seat belt citations and 184 child seat violations.
- Law enforcement statewide issued 1,017 citations to drivers for texting while driving and 1,517 seat belt violations during the April distracted driving extra enforcement campaign.