Minneapolis Police prepare for holiday DWI crackdown

The Minneapolis Police Department is preparing for enhanced DWI patrols as part of a statewide DWI enforcement effort in December to combat the potentially deadly and dangerous holiday celebration period.

In Minnesota over the past three Decembers there were 89 traffic deaths of which 24 were alcohol-related. In Hennepin County between 2008–2010 alcohol-related crashes accounted for 49 deaths and 96 serious injuries. During the same period, 20,589 people were arrested for DWI.

There was an average of 170 alcohol-related traffic deaths annually during the last five years in Minnesota, accounting for one-third of the state’s total road deaths. However, alcohol-related deaths have been declining in recent years. For example in 2010, there were 131 alcohol-related deaths, the fewest on record and enhanced enforcement campaigns have helped to prevent these tragedies. Each year, more than 30,000 people are arrested for DWI, and one in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on their driving record.

This holiday DWI enforcement campaign is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety. Approximately 400 Minnesota law enforcement agencies will participate in the effort to identify/arrest impaired drivers, and to encourage motorists to make safe decisions. Within the City of Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota Police Department will also be participating in this campaign.

A DWI offense can result in the loss of driver’s license for up to a year, thousands of dollars out of an offender’s pocket 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 an alcohol concentration level at or above 0.16. Under these new sanctions, DWI offenders must use an ignition interlock system for a year or face at least one year without driving privileges. Ignition interlock systems require a driver to provide a breath sample under 0.02 for the vehicle to start. Safety officials say ignition interlock systems ensure DWI offenders are driving legally and safely.

Minneapolis motorists are reminded to plan ahead for a safe ride home before celebrating; designate a sober driver, take a cab or public transportation, or even spend the night at the location of the celebration.

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.

Published Dec. 14, 2011