Drunk driving crackdown starts todayStarting today, Friday, the Alexandria Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will be cracking down harder on impaired drivers as part of a statewide DWI enforcement effort.
Starting today, Friday, the Alexandria Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will be cracking down harder on impaired drivers as part of a statewide DWI enforcement effort.
Coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), the crackdown will continue through September 7.
About 400 Minnesota law enforcement agencies will participate in the effort aimed toward taking impaired drivers off the road and encouraging motorists to make safe decisions.
Officers and deputies will combine DWI patrols with seat belt enforcement – as of June 9, Minnesota has a primary seat belt law that requires drivers and passengers in all seat positions to be buckled up or in the correct child restraint.
Law enforcement officers can stop motorists solely for seat belt violations, including having unbuckled passengers.
DPS sources report that enhanced DWI enforcement campaigns factored in the state tallying a record-low number of alcohol-related deaths in 2008. Last year, 163 motorists were killed in alcohol-related crashes – two in Douglas County.
Despite the drop in deaths, DPS reports alcohol-related crashes still accounted for more than one-third of all deaths, typical for each year.
In the last three years, 2006-2008, 519 motorists were killed and another 1,159 motorists were seriously injured in alcohol-related crashes statewide.
During that same time period, 116,515 motorists were arrested for DWI – 35,736 in 2008.
In Douglas County during 2006-2008, there were four impaired driving deaths, 39 serious injuries and 823 DWI violations issued.
The local impact of alcohol-related fatalities was $4.62 million.
“Impaired drivers are an unnecessary added risk to motorists on the roadways,” said Sergeant Kevin Guenther of the Alexandria Police Department. “That is why law enforcement will be on the lookout for drivers who display common impaired driving characteristics – swerving, driving erratically or driving too slow for traffic.”
Minnesota law states that motorists can be arrested for impaired driving even if their alcohol-concentration level is under 0.08 – the state’s legal limit – if they demonstrate impaired driving behavior.
The consequences of a DWI can vary depending on many factors, including alcohol concentration, previous offenses and if there was an injury related to a crash.
A first-time DWI offense will trigger an automatic driver’s license revocation for a minimum of 90 days. The cost of a DWI can reach $20,000 when factoring legal, court and administrative fees.
Those arrested for DWI now have an option to start driving sooner by having an interlock device installed in their vehicle to regain their driving privileges. Potential participants of the Minnesota Ignition Interlock Program can learn more at www.dps.state.mn.us/ots. Safety officials say this program ensures DWI offenders are driving legally and safely.
Deputy Brandon Chaffins of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office reminds motorists, especially young adults, to plan ahead for a safe ride home before celebrating. Young people continue to be the primary violators when it comes to impaired driving offenses.
Statewide from 2006-2008, more than 36,000 motorists 24 and younger were arrested for DWI. In Douglas County, 181 motorists arrested for DWI were age 24 and younger – including 115 under the legal drinking age.
The enforcement and education effort is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is a component of the state’s “Toward Zero Deaths” traffic safety program.