Burgers, brats and beer were among the tasty choices for many Minnesotans celebrating the Labor Day holiday and the end of summer. Unfortunately for four people in Winona County, they should’ve added “plan a sober ride” to the menu during the recent extra DWI enforcement campaign. They were arrested for DWI as part of the statewide effort coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.
More than 300 law enforcement agencies conducted overtime DWI enforcement during the August 16 to September 2 campaign. Participating agencies in Winona County were the Winona County Sheriff’s Office and Winona Police Department.
Poor choices, life-changing consequences
Enjoying a drink at the cabin, on the beach or in the backyard grilling with friends and family is how many Minnesotans take in the joys of summer. Those joys can come to a tragic end if a sober ride is not part of the experience. Poor choices make summer the most deadly season for drunk driving.
Drunk-driving-related fatalities 2014-2018
• December-February: 69
• March-May: 113
• June-August: 127
• September-November: 103
Alcohol-related serious injuries also occur most frequently during the summer months. Alcohol-related refers to any evidence of alcohol detected in a driver, pedestrian or bicyclist at the time of the crash. It’s important to remember that alcohol can impair the judgment of pedestrians and bicyclists, not just drivers. Serious injuries may not end a life, but the subsequent health struggles can last a lifetime.
Alcohol-related serious injuries 2014-2018
• December-February: 294
• March-May: 446
• June-August: 481
• September-November: 436
“So many great Minnesota memories are made during the summer out on the water, around the campfire and at all the community events,” said Winona County Sheriff Ron Ganrude. “When we arrest a drunk driver, we’re keeping those memories alive for the people that person didn’t kill or injure on the road, including themselves. We’re not here to spoil anybody’s fun. We’re here to make sure the fun, and a life, don’t end too soon.”
More Minnesotans planning ahead
Minnesotans are increasingly aware that drinking and driving should not be mixed and are speaking up for a safe ride home. In the 1960s, more than half of all traffic deaths were related to drinking and driving. In 2018, drunk-driving-related deaths were 22 percent of all traffic fatalities in Minnesota. The five-year average (2014-2018) is also 22 percent.
• Loss of license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in costs and possible jail time.
• 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.
• First-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above are required to use interlock for one year.
• Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.
Friends don’t let friends drink and drive
• Plan for a safe ride — designate a sober driver, use a safe, alternative transportation option or stay at the location of the celebration.
• Speak up – offer to be a designated driver or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere. If you see an impaired person about to get behind the wheel, find them a safe ride home.
• Buckle up — the best defense against a drunk driver.
• Report drunk driving — call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.
The enhanced DWI enforcement campaign is a component of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) program. The Minnesota departments of Public Safety, Transportation and Health collaborate on improving traffic safety for all. 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 medical and trauma response.
• Driving while impaired (DWI) is a violation for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Alcohol-related: any evidence of alcohol detected in a driver, pedestrian or bicyclist.
• Impaired-related: any driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.
• Drunk-driving-related: any driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.