Police, deputies begin new crackdownTo combat the threat of impaired driving, the Alexandria Police Department and Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will conduct extra DWI patrols as part of a Minnesota-wide crackdown throughout December.
To combat the threat of impaired driving, the Alexandria Police Department and Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will conduct extra DWI patrols as part of a Minnesota-wide crackdown throughout December.
The effort is timely because December is among the deadliest months for alcohol-related crashes and DWI arrests.
The enforcement campaign includes participation from around 400 Minnesota law enforcement agencies, all deploying extra officers to work overtime hours targeting impaired drivers.
A DWI results in loss of license for at least 90 days and costs up to $20,000 when factoring in increased insurance costs, legal and other fees, according to authorities.
There are more than one-half million Minnesotans with a DWI on record – translating to one in eight Minnesota drivers with a DWI.
“Avoiding a DWI arrest simply comes down to having a plan for a safe and sober ride,” said Sergeant Kevin Guenther of the Alexandria Police Department. “There’s no excuse for driving impaired and putting lives at risk on our roads.”
Each year, alcohol-related crashes account for up to 200 traffic deaths and nearly 400 serious injuries.
These crashes and fatalities have been declining in recent years, and both agencies say enhanced DWI enforcement campaigns have been a major factor in Minnesota’s continuing trend of lower alcohol-related traffic deaths.
In 2008 there were 163 deaths – a record low – and two in Douglas County.
Despite the drop in alcohol-related deaths, drinking and driving crashes still account for more than one-third of all traffic deaths annually, which is typical for each year.
The Alexandria Police Department and Douglas County Sheriff’s Office say a major factor for a large percentage of alcohol-related deaths is seat belt use. Each year around 75 percent of the impaired drivers killed in crashes are also not belted.
According to Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Chaffins, the state’s primary seat belt law will help officers stop impaired drivers before they do harm to others or themselves.
During 2006-2008 in Douglas County, there were four alcohol-related deaths of which two were unbelted. Statewide during this same period, there were 394 alcohol-related deaths of which 256 were unbelted.
“Partnering seat belt and DWI enforcement is a strategy that will deliver the greatest results for traffic safety,” said Chaffins. “The primary law serves as a tremendous tool to stop impaired drivers because the facts show impaired motorists are also not buckled up.”
The primary seat belt law became effective in June 2009. Drivers and passengers in any seat, even in the back, must be belted or in the correct child restraint.
Law enforcement will stop and ticket motorists and passengers for belt violations. Belt fines are more than $100.
In the last three years on Minnesota roads, alcohol-related crashes accounted for 519 traffic deaths and 1,159 serious injuries. During this same period, 116,515 motorists were arrested for DWI.
In Douglas County during 2006-2008, there were four impaired driving deaths, 39 serious injuries and 823 DWIs.
The local economic impact of alcohol-related fatalities was estimated at $4,620,000.
The DWI enforcement is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and administered by the Department of Public Safety. The campaign is a component of the state’s cornerstone traffic safety platform, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD).
TZD uses a multidisciplinary approach to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries through enhanced enforcement, improved engineering, educational outreach and efficient emergency trauma response.