Many Minnesotans enjoy a cold beer or cocktail on the porch on a hot summer day. And if you’re like many of them, you don’t get behind the wheel afterward. You know that it’s not only illegal to drink and drive; it’s dangerous.
The numbers show that Minnesotans are increasingly intolerant of drinking and driving. In 2008, nearly 36,000 people were arrested for DWIs. By 2017, that number dropped to around 25,000 — a decrease of 31 percent. And the trend has dropped dramatically over the past several decades: In the 1960s, more than half of all traffic deaths were related to drinking and driving, whereas in 2016, only 19 percent were.
And although we are making progress, drinking and driving is still a problem. In fact, we’re approaching the holiday with the third highest number of DWI arrests per hour: Labor Day. It ties with St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day at 3.8 DWI arrests per hour, and only trails the Fourth of July (3.9 per hour) and Halloween (4 per hour).
That’s why more than 300 law enforcement agencies across the state are participating in an enhanced enforcement campaign through Sept. 2. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides the funds to pay officers for their overtime, and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety coordinates the effort. That means that law enforcement officers all over the state will be putting in extra time to catch drunk drivers before they hurt anyone.
So what can you do to help? Keep doing what you’re doing: don’t drink and drive. That means planning ahead, whether it’s asking a friend to be a designated driver, lining up public transportation or a taxi, or just staying put on a friend’s couch for the night.
Speaking up is another way to help. If you see an impaired person about to get behind the wheel, help them find a safe way home instead. And offer to be a sober driver ahead of time for loved ones – tell them you’ll pick them up anytime, anywhere. And if you witness impaired driving behavior, call 911 to report it. You’ll need to tell the dispatcher the location, the vehicle’s license plate number, and the dangerous driving behavior you’ve observed.
Last but certainly not least, buckle up. Every single time. A seat belt will give you the best chance of surviving a crash with a drunk driver.
So enjoy those drinks with friends during what’s left of our beautiful summer weather – but stay safe afterward by staying away from the driver’s seat.
Source: Department of Public Safety
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