Extra DWI enforcers patrol the streets of south-central Minnesota Aug. 21 to Sept. 7

On a hot summer day, it’s easy to throw back a few drinks while enjoying the beach or fishing on the dock, and it’s easy to forget that driving home with a buzz is drunk driving. As summer winds down, south central Minnesota law enforcement plans to crack down on drunk drivers during a statewide DWI enforcement effort.

The statewide DWI education and enforcement campaign, which runs Aug. 21 to Sept. 7, is coordinated by the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS).

Highlights:

• “Now is the time to make sure you don’t make the decision to get behind the wheel after drinking too much,” said Brett Paasch, MnDOT traffic section. “Not just today but every day.”

• “Everyone plays a role in public safety, especially on our roads. When you get behind the wheel, make sure you are not putting yourself or anyone else at risk,” said Executive Director of South Central EMS, Mark Griffith. “Speak up you could make a difference between life and death.”

• “Seat belt enforcement goes hand-in-hand with DWI patrols, and with the primary seat belt law, officers will use their ability to stop a motorist for a seat belt violation to their advantage in their effort to take impaired drivers off the roads, so buckle up,” said Deputy Tom Coulter, Blue Earth County Sheriffs office. “This law is especially meaningful as a vast majority of these impaired drivers killed in crashes are also not belted.”

Drunk driving, a sobering reality

More than 25,000 drivers are arrested for DWI in Minnesota each year, this alarming number averages nearly three DWI arrests per hour throughout the state.

In the last five years (2010 – 2014), there were 479 drunk driving-related traffic deaths in Minnesota and 88 people were killed in 2014 alone.

“These are sad, tragic and preventable deaths,” said Sgt. Troy Christianson of the Minnesota State Patrol. “And the fact is, if you’re driving drunk, it’s much better news if you’re stopped and arrested for DWI than causing a preventable tragedy.

DWI consequences

• 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.

• Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.

Prevent drunk driving

• Plan for a safe ride – designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.

• 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.

The enhanced DWI enforcement campaign is a component of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) 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.