State Cracking Down on DWI’s

Friday, December 4th, 2009 at 6:23 am

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota State Patrol will team up with approximately 400 local law enforcement agencies to conduct one of the largest statewide DWI enforcement crackdowns of 2009 throughout the month of December.

The stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is typically deadly on Minnesota roads. From 2006–2008, alcohol-related crashes in the month of December accounted for 44 traffic deaths and 76 serious injuries. During this same period, 9,903 motorists were arrested for DWI.

“Impaired driving is one of the holiday traditions we hope to stop with added patrols,” says Capt. Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol. “While everyone knows the dangers of drinking and driving, it’s clear not everyone understands the consequences.”

A DWI arrest results in loss of license for at least 90 days and fines up to $20,000 when factoring increased insurance rates, court and lawyer costs, driver reinstatement fees and more. Langer says the impact of a DWI carries “serious baggage” — turning lives upside down.

“The 500,000 Minnesotans that have been arrested for DWI have experienced the fear, the embarrassment and the despair in the backseat of a squad. It’s not a place you want to end up,” he says.

Each year, alcohol-related crashes account for up to 200 traffic deaths and nearly 400 serious injuries. These crashes and fatalities have been declining in recent years, and enhanced DWI enforcement campaigns have been a major factor in Minnesota’s continuing trend of lower alcohol-related traffic deaths. In 2008 there were 163 deaths — a record low. Despite the drop in alcohol-related deaths, drinking and driving crashes still account for more than one-third of all traffic deaths annually.

A major factor in many alcohol-related deaths is seat belt use. Each year, 75 percent of the impaired drivers killed are also not belted. According to Chief Phil Johanson, of the Anoka Police Department, the primary seat belt law will help officers stop impaired drivers before they do harm to themselves or others.

“Partnering seat belt and DWI enforcement will deliver the greatest results for traffic safety,” says Johanson. “The primary law serves as a tremendous tool to stop impaired drivers as the facts show impaired motorists are also not buckled up.”

The primary seat belt law became effective in June 2009. Drivers and passengers in any seat, even in the back, must be belted or in the correct child restraint. Law enforcement will stop and ticket drivers and passengers for belt violations. Seat belt fines total more than $100.

Langer says now is the time to begin planning for a safe and sober ride and to continue that habit in the New Year. Langer notes that in addition to designated drivers and using a cab, families should let each other know that they will be available to offer a safe ride home.

The DWI enforcement is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and administered by the Department of Public Safety. The campaign is supported by a statewide paid advertising campaign including TV, radio, out-of-home, print and online.  The effort is a component of the state’s cornerstone traffic safety platform, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). TZD uses a multidisciplinary approach to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries through enhanced enforcement, improved engineering, educational outreach and efficient emergency trauma response.

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