Certain times of the year require police crackdowns for drunk driving, and holidays—particularly Labor Day—are atop the list. Despite the difficult winters with which Minnesotans must deal each year, summer driving is far deadlier.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Labor Day is second in alcohol-related traffic fatalities only to the 4th of July over the past five years. Labor Day is particularly worrisome because it is, essentially, the last hurrah of summer before the colder weather of autumn and winter arrives.
Over the last five years, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety reported that on Labor Day alone there were 4.6 DWI arrests per hour—a figure higher than the 4th of July (4.3), New Year’s Eve (3.9), and St. Patrick’s Day (4.2). One truly sobering fact is that 88 people were killed in speed-related automobile accidents during 2017, with 23 of them occurring between Memorial and Labor Day. This period is dubbed the 100 deadliest days because during this time, 35 percent of all roadway fatalities occur annually. In fact, in Minnesota, between 2012 and 2017, 769 people died due to vehicular accidents—DWI, speeding, failure to wear seat belts, or some other transgression—during that time.
Enhanced education and enforcement
Each year during the summer, a statewide awareness campaign seeks to not only provide extra enforcement but also to educate the public on the problems of drunk—and otherwise reckless—driving. Emphasis is placed on the dangers of driving while intoxicated, and police and other safety groups provide tips as to how to improve safety for everyone during this busy time.
Thus—just like each previous year—authorities are planning to increase statewide enforcement efforts leading up to Labor Day with many officers working overtime in order to identify and apprehend drunk drivers.
A word on motorcycles
The summer is also the time for a spike in motorcycle fatalities with speed and alcohol touted as the most cited reason for said accidents. Thus far this year, 24 motorcyclists perished on Minnesota roads—compared with only 22 last year at this time. Compounding the problem is that of these fatalities, only six were wearing helmets.
Law enforcement officials stress that motorcycle riders should, in addition to wearing DOT-approved helmets, don additional brightly colored protective gear to make them more visible while on the road. Essentially, motorcycle riders should be proactive about their own safety, ride sober, follow all rules particular speed limits, and be extra aware of road hazards including inattentive drivers, unexpected road conditions, and other dangers. Another highly touted recommendation is for motorcycle riders to take a training course in order to improve riding skills and learn life-saving maneuvers that may save their others’ lives if necessary.
Similarly, other motor vehicle drivers should be equally cognizant of motorcyclists, be extra aware of their presence, and share the road with them.
Just don’t do it
Of particular concern is the plethora of ride-sharing programs available which frustrates law enforcement officers when drunk individuals decide to get behind the wheel instead of taking advantage of the options. Given the serious criminal and administrative sanctions for DWIs in Minnesota, it is puzzling why so many people would take that risk.
Currently, one-in-seven Minnesotans have a DWI, and statewide, law enforcement officers make 30,000 DWI-related arrests each year.
The solution is truly an easy one: don’t get behind the wheel if drunk, don’t speed, pay attention to other motorists, and wear a seat belt. Doing so will dramatically reduce the number of tragic accidents and fatalities.