Minnesota DWI arrests on the decline
More than 2,500 impaired drivers statewide were arrested in December, according to a recently released DPS report. The DPS enforced a similar DWI crackdown in 2011 and made a total of 2,600 DWI arrests in Minnesota.
"Our goal with these campaigns is to educate about the importance of planning a sober ride, and use enforcement for those who decide to get behind the wheel and put the lives of others -- and their own -- in danger," said Lt. Eric Roeske, Minnesota State Patrol, in the DPS press release.
Locally, Cottonwood, Nobles, Murray, Pipestone, Rock, and Jackson counties all reported State Patrol DWIs arrests in December below the state average.
Of those six, Murray County was the only county with no State Patrol DWI arrests. Rock County had one DWI arrest, Cottonwood County and Pipestone County had two arrests, Nobles County had four and Jackson County had five.
Minnesota State Patrol District 2300, which encompasses the southwest corner of the state from Chippewa and Lac Qui Parle counties in the north to Renville, Redwood, Cottonwood and Jackson counties to the west, maintains a steady average of DWI arrests.
"Our district stays consistent and level," said Lt. Bruce Erickson, Minnesota State Patrol. "We don't see a large swing in our numbers,"
Counties with the highest combined totals of drunk driving death and alcohol-related serious injuries are Hennepin, Ramsey, St. Louis, Anoka, Dakota, Olmsted, Washington, Stearns, Wright and Sherburne.
The DWI enforcement campaign is part of an ongoing effort to reduce the number of traffic fatalities to 350 by 2014, with an end goal of zero traffic deaths, led by Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths (TZD).
For the first time in five years, Minnesota saw an increase in the number of traffic deaths; 378 people were killed in 2012. Despite the increase, 2012 was still the safest driving year (after 2011) since 1944, when 356 deaths were reported.
In 2011, Minnesota had one of the lowest and safest death rate per 100 million vehicle miles travelled in the nation.
In the mid-1990s, Minnesota averaged 547 deaths annually. Since then the state has seen a general downward trend in the number of traffic fatalities, and is on track to reach their goal 2014 goal.
DWI offenses can result in a loss of license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in costs and possible jail time. Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years or they will never regain driving privileges.
To prevent drunk driving, drivers are encouraged to plan for a safe ride by designating a sober driver, buckle up and wear protective motorcycle gear and to report drunk driving by calling 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior (be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior).
"I don't think anyone can argue that the ability of a person driving under the influence, be it alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs, is greatly reduced," Erickson said.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.