According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s annual report on DWI accidents, whereas 88 people died in alcohol-related accidents in 2014, in 2015, this number rose to 95. However, when compared to the 103 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2011 and 135 in 2006, there is a decline. In 2015, 2,203 individuals were injured in alcohol-related crashes.
As for individuals injured in alcohol-related crashes, in 2015, this number was 2,203.
Most individuals arrested for DWI during 2015 were males (72 percent), and just over half (53 percent) were between 20 and 34 years of age. An alarming 1,274 arrests were of individuals under the age of 21 who were not of the legal age to be drinking in the first place. As would be expected, most DWI arrests occur on Saturdays (26 percent), followed by Sundays (23 percent).
As for DWI/DUI arrests, 2015 saw 25,027 arrests—for an average of 69 per day—but this figure was less than the 25,385 DWI arrests in 2014, thus suggesting that fewer people are, in fact, driving while impaired or intoxicated. Again, when compared to the 30,009 DWI/DUI arrests in 2010 and 42,007 in 2006, the volume is decreasing.
Despite promising data suggesting that more Minnesota drivers are not driving while under the influence, the fact remains that one out of every seven Minnesotans has at least one DWI/DUI conviction, for a statewide rate of 11.4 percent. Some counties do have more than their share of impaired driver arrests and convictions. In St. Louis County, for example, of the 26,240 residents, 13 percent—or 200,800—have at least one DWI/DUI conviction; higher than the state average.
Of particular concern, however, is that those drivers who were arrested for DWI/DUI averaged a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.16 percent, which is twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Further, drunk drivers who were involved in fatal accidents averaged a BAC of a whopping 0.19 percent.
Nearly 60 percent of all DWI arrests in 2015 were first-time offenders. Repeat offenders present the greatest problem because they have repeatedly demonstrated either indifference to the laws or that they may have a serious alcohol problem. In fact, one state driver had a ridiculous 26 DWI arrests and was still driving.
Over the past few years, state laws mandate ignition interlock systems for repeat offenders who were arrested with a BAC of at least 0.16 percent as a trade-off from a driver’s license suspension. In fact, the number of installed ignition interlock devices has almost doubled during this period, from 5,276 in 2013 to 9,780 in 2015. Further, since 2013, 12,074 individuals have graduated from the state’s interlock program.
However, unlicensed and dangerous drivers continue to be out on the road, posing a danger to others.
Of the numerous DWI arrests in 2015, just over 70 percent have resulted in convictions, while the state expects that figure to increase to 85 percent. Significant county discrepancies exist. For example, DWI convictions in Cook County are an impressive 96 percent, while Murray and Pipestone counties see 47 percent of their DWI arrests turn into successful convictions. Other counties and their conviction rates include St. Louis County (71 percent), Lake County (76 percent), and Carlton County (81 percent).
Minnesota’s Efforts for Curbing Drunk Driving
The state Office of Traffic Safety boasts increased laws, greater awareness, and more enforcement are to credit with these decreases. Director Donna Berger stated that, “the problem remains because we’re still seeing too many lives affected and lost by poor choices behind the wheel. Please think about what you stand to lose if you choose to drive impaired and plan a sober ride.”