ST. PAUL – Minnesotans are entering the holiday season and starting with Blackout Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve), their choices can bring families together or bring life-changing tragedy. A choice that should always become a holiday tradition is planning a sober ride before drinking alcohol.
Choices to drive drunk have contributed to 27 deaths on Minnesota roads from the day before Thanksgiving through Dec. 30 in the last five years (2012-2016 preliminary). To protect Minnesotans from deadly decisions, there will be statewide extra DWI enforcement starting Nov. 22 and on weekends through Dec. 30.
Officers, deputies and troopers from more than 300 agencies will be working overtime with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety coordinates the extra enforcement and education effort.
“There’s so much excitement around the holidays as Minnesotans get together with friends and family, some of whom they haven’t seen for a while,” said Bob Hawkins, assistant commissioner, Minnesota Department of Public Safety. “The scary part is when drinking and driving becomes part of the festivities. For too many Minnesota families, there’s going to be an empty seat at the table because of one poor choice. Please plan ahead for a sober ride.”
Choices behind the Wheel
Minnesotans are increasingly planning a sober ride throughout the year and over the holidays, but the number of motorists still driving drunk is never acceptable and potentially deadly.
In Minnesota, the holiday periods with the highest proportion of drunk driving-related fatalities for 2011-2015 are:
- July 4 (45.5 percent)
- Christmas (35.3 percent)
- Thanksgiving (33.3 percent)
Blackout Wednesday, also known as Thanksgiving Eve, is a popular partying night as many people don’t have to work the next day and college students are coming home for the holiday. There are a higher number of DWIs compared with a typical Wednesday or Thursday.
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 or 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’sToward 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
- Officers, deputies and troopers arrested 1,370 drivers for DWI during the Aug 18 – Sept. 3 extra enforcement period.
- 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.