The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety recently released its final 2011 drunk driving data that is highlighted by 111 drunk driving deaths, marking a 40 percent reduction in such deaths from 185 a decade ago (2002).
Despite this progress, drunk driving remains a top public safety threat according to DPS officials. Each year, drunk driving crashes account for a bulk — one-third — of the state’s total traffic deaths. The drunk driving problem is also underscored in that 29,257 Minnesotans were arrested for DWI in 2011 — one in seven drivers have a DWI on record, and 1,265 Minnesotans have 10 or more DWIs.
In Minnesota during 2007–2011, 651 people were killed in drunk driving crashes — an average of 130 deaths annually: 2011 — 111; 2010 — 121; 2009 — 112; 2008 — 137; 2007 — 170. During this same period 166,962 motorists were arrested for DWI.
In Isanti County in 2011, there were 150 DWI’s; 325 crashes; two motor vehicle occupant deaths; and one unbelted motor vehicle occupant death. There weren’t any alcohol related deaths reported in Isanti County in 2011.
“The progress we’ve made to limit drunk driving deaths is far eclipsed by the tragedies created by this behavior every year,” said Jean Ryan, impaired driving programs coordinator at DPS. “Enforcement and education efforts are leading the change in behavior, but it takes everyone’s committed responsibility to stop these preventable deaths.”
Ryan said innovative initiatives and legislation are supporting the movement against impaired driving:
• Ignition Interlock — The state’s ignition interlock program provides for sober and legal driving for DWI offenders; more than 4,000 motorists are using interlock in Minnesota. 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.
• DWI Courts — These accountability courts are dedicated to changing the behavior of hard core offenders using a cooperative approach that includes all members of the criminal justice system.
• Plate Impoundment — Removes the license plates from a vehicle until the person driving the vehicle is legally licensed to drive.
• New Technologies — DWI eCharging system integrates information systems required for a DWI arrest and provides a more effective and efficient system to arrest a person for DWI.
• Safe cab programs — Communities are providing alternative transportation for those that make the smart decision to not drive impaired.
Drunk Driving Deaths
• 68 people died in traffic crashes in Minnesota and 111 (30 percent) were crashes involving drunk drivers.
• 86 (77 percent) of the 111 drunk driving deaths occurred outside the Twin Cities’ metro — Greater Minnesota accounted for 236 fatal crashes, of which 33 percent involved a drunk driver.
• 29,257 motorists were arrested for DWI, translating to 81 DWI arrests a day. There were 29,918 arrests in 2010; 32,756 arrests in 2009; 35,736 in 2008; and 38,635 in 2007. The Twin Cities’ metro area and the 80-county Greater Minnesota each accounted for about one-half of all 2011 DWI arrests.
• One in seven current Minnesota drivers (570,191) has a DWI on record, and one in 17 has two or more DWIs. In the state, 1,265 Minnesotans have 10 or more DWIs.
• 40 percent of those who incur one violation will incur a second within 15 years of their first arrest.
• Males accounted for 73 percent of all DWIs.
• Motorists ages 20–29 represented 42 percent of DWI arrests. One in 15 of the arrests were motorists under age 21.
• 59 percent of violators were first-time offenders, yet 12,103 (41 percent) had at least one prior DWI at the time of arrest. The average alcohol concentration among first-time offenders was 0.148, for repeat offenders the level was 0.166.
• 50 percent of the DWI arrests were made on Saturdays and Sundays.
Impaired Drivers and Belt Use
• 74 percent of drinking drivers killed were not wearing seat belts.
DWI Conviction Rates
• 76 percent of motorists arrested for DWI resulted in a criminal conviction for driving while impaired; this percentage will increase as outstanding cases are settled in courts. Historically, about 85 percent of DWI arrests result in a conviction each year.
• The top five counties for DWI conviction rates were: Red Lake (93 percent); Lyon (92 percent); Wilkin (92 percent); Hubbard (91 percent); and Polk (90 percent).
• Counties with the lowest conviction rates: Lake of the Woods (60 percent); Lincoln (64 percent); Washington (64 percent); Nicollet (66 percent); and Hennepin (68 percent).
About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (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. OTS also administers state funds for motorcycle safety programs and child seats for needy families.
OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety initiative. 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.
Office of Traffic Safety Highlights
• A statewide DWI enforcement crackdown is on the roads through Labor Day.
• 23,285 speeders were ticketed during a July statewide speed campaign.
• OTS issued the 2011 Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report, citing 368 traffic deaths for the year, the lowest since 1944 and a 44 percent reduction in deaths from a decade ago.
• The leading DWI enforcer is Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Mark Hibbard with 241 DWI arrests in 2011.
• July 1 marked one year of the state’s ignition interlock DWI sanction. More than 4,000 DWI offenders are using ignition interlock to benefit road safety and ensure legal, sober driving.