The numbers are staggering, the facts are sobering
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
In Minnesota, one in seven drivers has a DWI on record.
Think about it – one in seven – and then look around your office, your coffee group, your dinner table. A statistic like that is bound to hit mighty close to home.
In fact, a statewide enhanced DWI enforcement campaign in December proves that it did. The campaign resulted in the arrest of 2, 573 impaired motorists during that month alone in the state of Minnesota.
The highest alcohol concentration reported in the state was 0.39. Twenty agencies reported the person arrested with the highest alcohol-concentration was at or above 0.30. More than 100 agencies reported their highest alcohol-concentration recorded was at or above 0.20. The legal limit is 0.08.
Let’s take a look at how Carlton County fared. The Carlton County Sheriff’s Department reported making five DWI arrests during December, with the highest alcohol concentration level registering at .17. The Cloquet Police Department arrested two, and the person with the highest blood alcohol level tested at .151. The Fond du Lac Police made four DWI arrests in December, with the highest blood alcohol level at .16, and Minnesota State Patrol District 2700 (including Carlton, Cook, Lake, Pine and Southern St. Louis counties) made 28 DWI arrests, registering a peak alcohol level of .27.
Those numbers are pretty sobering, to say nothing of downright dangerous, to think that many people were driving around drunk – and those are only the ones who got caught. For those who did get arrested, the penalties were stiff.
The consequences for driving impaired vary for each DWI offender, but a typical penalty for a first-time offender in Minnesota is potential jail time and loss of license for a minimum of 30 days up to a year. Costs can be as high as $20,000 when factoring court costs, legal fees and increased insurance premiums.
All repeat DWI offenders in the state – and motorists arrested for a first-time DWI with an alcohol-concentration level of 0.16 and above – face stronger DWI sanctions. Under these sanctions, DWI offenders must use ignition interlock (at their own expense) for at least a year or face at least one year without driving privileges. Interlock requires a driver to provide a breath sample under 0.02 in order for his or her vehicle to start.
“The consequences of a DWI are harsh for a good reason,” stated Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. “Drunk driving results in hundreds of deaths and injuries each year.”
With 29,918 motorists arrested for DWI in the state of Minnesota in 2010, that’s not something that can be taken lightly.
Roeske stressed to always plan for a safe ride in 2012 – designate a sober driver, use a cab or public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration. He suggested that families should let each other know that they will be available to offer a safe ride home, adding that motorists can help stop impaired drivers by calling 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior.
As 2012 gets under way, we have a clean, new slate ahead of us. Let’s not become one of the statistics, and make sure that the one in seven doesn’t turn out to be you.