Local law enforcement agencies will increase DWI patrols as part of a statewide DWI enforcement effort in December to combat the potentially deadly and dangerous holiday celebration period.
During Minnesota Decembers, 2008–2010, there were 89 traffic deaths and 24 were alcohol-related.
A similar enforcement effort last year in Isanti County resulted in a number of DWI arrests.
During 2008-2010, there were 489 DWI incidents in Isanti County according to Minnesota Department of Public Safety data; 138 DWI incidents in 2010 alone.
There was an average of 170 alcohol-related traffic deaths annually during the last five years in Minnesota — accounting for one-third of all state’s total road deaths annually. Alcohol-related deaths have been declining in recent years — in 2010, there were 131 alcohol-related deaths, the fewest on record. The Isanti TZD Program believes enhanced enforcement campaigns have helped to prevent these tragedies. Each year, more than 30,000 people are arrested for DWI; one in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on record.
The campaign is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety. Around 400 Minnesota law enforcement agencies will participate in the effort to identify and arrest impaired drivers, and encourage motorists to make safe decisions.
Participating agencies in Isanti County include the County Sheriff’s Department and local police departments.
“The holidays are a time for celebrating. They are not a time to throw common sense and safe driving choices out the window,” said Bob Bollenbeck, TZD Coordinator. “Avoid the potentially deadly consequences of driving impaired, as well as the heavy costs and personal grief of a DWI — plan for a safe and sober ride.”
A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands in costs and possible jail time. Stronger DWI sanctions are in effect for all repeat DWI offenders, as well as for motorists arrested for a first-time DWI with a 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level. Under these sanctions, DWI offenders must use ignition interlock for at least a year or face at least one year without driving privileges. Interlock requires a driver to provide a breath sample under 0.02 for the vehicle to start. Safety officials say interlock ensures DWI offenders are driving legally and safely. Potential participants of program can learn more at www.minnesotaignitioninterlock.org.
Bollenbeck reminds area motorists to plan ahead for a safe ride home before celebrating: designate a sober driver, take a safe cab or public transportation, or spend the night at the location of the celebration. Bollenbeck adds that families should let their loved ones know that they are willing and available to offer a safe ride at anytime if needed.
“Receiving a phone call at 3 a.m. from a family member is a lot better than receiving a knock on the door from a police officer/trooper/deputy,” Bollenbeck said.
In addition, motorists should report impaired driving — call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Witnesses must be prepared to provide location, license plate and observed dangerous behavior.
The DWI enforcement and education effort is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is a component 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 trauma response.