The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety announced it will increase DWI enforcement between August 18th and September 3rd (Labor Day). More than 300 law enforcement agencies will be increasing officer presence and enforcement during this time as part of a broader effort to protect Minnesotans from drunk driving.
In the last five years, nearly 16 percent of all fatal automobile accidents in Minnesota over Labor Day weekend were DWI/DUI-related, making it the sixth deadliest holiday in the state. Compounding the problem is that as of 9 August this year, the state surpassed 200 road fatalities.
In 2016, 392 people were killed in automobile crashes on Minnesota roads, and nearly 266,000 Minnesota drivers have at least one DWI on their record. Granted, these fatalities were not all drunk driving-related; however, DWI/DUI is the leading cause of traffic accidents in Minnesota, followed by speeding and distracted driving.
DPS’ enforcement crackdown seeks to prevent any more needless accidents and deaths.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving results in nearly 10,000 deaths, 1.1 million arrests, and $44 billion in economic damage annually across the US.
Spotlight on State Trooper Andrew Martinek
Among the officers who will be part of this increased effort is State Trooper Andrew Martinek, an eight-year veteran of the Minnesota State Patrol and one of the department’s most prolific DWI/DUI enforcers. Martinek has already recorded over 70 DWI arrests in 2017 alone and was named one of the DPS’ 2017 DWI All-Star Enforcers. In fact, Martinek regularly logs over 100 DWI/DUI arrests annually, and one year he logged 186 arrests. He also earned numerous accolades from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Martinek’s eye for drunk drivers is unparalleled, particularly those who are speeding and driving erratically—two of the biggest tell-tale signs of drunk driving. Because it is nearly impossible to multitask when drunk—especially while operating a motor vehicle and even more so at higher rates of speed—these offenders are becoming increasingly more obvious and easier to spot.
Once a suspected drunk driver is stopped, additional evidence such as bloodshot and glassy eyes and the odor of alcohol increase the reasonable suspicion officers like Martinek need to warrant further action. Failure to successfully complete roadside sobriety tests for coordination and balance—as well as breath tests results exceeding the legal driving limit of .08 percent—provide the necessary probable cause for officers to arrest.
Martinek is passionate about making Minnesota’s drivers safer and removing drunk drivers from the state’s roads and says that the worst part of his job is telling someone that their loved one was killed by a drunk driver.
Increased efforts are working
Currently, one-in-seven Minnesotans has a DWI/DUI on their driving record, while the average BAC of a driver arrested in the state is .16 percent—double the state limit. Additionally—and also troubling—is that many of those with prior DWI/DUI arrests have driven while intoxicated multiple times before getting caught.
Increased alcohol education and enforcement has been key in reducing drunk driving-related fatalities. According to the DPS, between 2015 and 2016, the number of DWI-related deaths decreased 22 percent from 95 to 74. Additionally, state DWI/DUI citations decreased from 38,765 to 23,392 during that same time.
The bottom line: Don’t drink and drive
Minnesota doesn’t take drunk driving lightly. In addition to hefty fines and loss of driving privileges, drunk drivers may also face jail time, mandatory alcohol education, license plate suspension, and vehicle impoundment and forfeiture.
With all the ride-sharing options available, there is no reason to get behind the wheel if intoxicated. DPS credits the steady decline in DWI/DUI arrests over the past decade to education and enforcement—and the increased number of Minnesotans making the right choice in obtaining a sober ride. However, there is still a long way to go. Just remember, one drunk driver is too many.