ST. PAUL – The holidays are here. That means family gatherings, gifts and games, tables full of holiday foods, and maybe a little stress mixed in with the good times. If alcohol is involved, planning for a safe ride will ensure a fun holiday season to remember and not a lifetime of heartache because of a fatal crash.
As part of an extra DWI patrols campaign during the holidays, law enforcement will be watching the roads to keep Minnesotans safe from impaired drivers.
Troopers, deputies and police officers will be participating in a statewide campaign Nov. 24 through New Year’s Eve. They will be looking for drivers who appear impaired, whether by alcohol or other substances. Alcohol, cold medicine, prescription medication or any other drug can contribute to impairment.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety coordinates the patrol, education and awareness campaign with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“The pandemic has turned life upside down for many of us, and we’re now getting back to spending time with our loved ones,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “Let’s make sure we are creating positive memories this holiday season by making smart choices behind the wheel. I don’t want to be a Grinch, but too many drivers are doing the opposite. A significant jump in traffic fatalities since the pandemic is causing so much tragedy. Make the decision to drive smart by planning a sober ride and not driving impaired under any substance.”
Impaired is Impaired, Regardless of the Substance
The holidays can be stressful. Prescribed medications, for example, may help people cope, but they can also affect their ability to drive safely. Driving while impaired by any substance is illegal. Drugged driving incidents are on the rise, and it’s a growing concern for Minnesota law enforcement.
A DWI is No Holiday
There's more than one way to be under the influence behind the wheel.
- Alcohol, illegal drug use or prescription medications can cause impairment, but so can common over-the-counter drugs, such as cold, flu, sleep and allergy medicines.
- Drugs like antidepressants, opioids and sleep aids prescribed by a doctor can affect your ability to drive safely as well.
- The choice to drive drunk has contributed to 26 deaths on Minnesota roads from the day before Thanksgiving through Dec.30 (2016-2020).
- More than one of every five deaths (21 percent) on Minnesota roads is drunk driving-related.
- There were 397 drunk driving-related traffic deaths in Minnesota in the last five years, with 79 people killed in 2020 alone.
- Alcohol-related crashes not only take lives, they change them forever. An average of 384 life-changing injuries (2016-2020) are caused by alcohol-related crashes each year.
- Drugged driving incidents accounted for 6,269 incidents from 2011-2015 compared with 12,883 from 2016-2020. That’s a 106 percent increase over a five year period.
Holiday DWI Arrests (Day before Thanksgiving – Dec. 30)
- Loss of license for up to a year, 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.
- First-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above are required to use interlock for one year.
- Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.
Driving Sober. The Perfect Holiday Gift.
- Plan for a safe ride — designate a sober driver, use a safe, alternative transportation option, 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.
- If you plan to drive, refrain from drugs, whether legally or illegally obtained.
- If you don't yet know how a medication will affect your judgment, coordination and reaction time, either have someone else drive or wait to take it until after you get home.
- Check the warning labels on medications carefully. Does it have one about "operating heavy machinery?" That includes motor vehicles.
- Some medications are fine on their own but can impair you when mixed with other medications or alcohol - even a small amount. Learn about the interactions and talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
- Buckle up — the best defense against drunken impaired driver.
- Report impaired 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. These efforts form a strong foundation for the statewide Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety program. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.