Impaired-Related Traffic Deaths Decline in 2014

Impaired-Related Traffic Deaths Decline in 2014

More Drivers Making Smart Choices as Trend Continues of Fewer Impaired-Related Fatalities

 

  1. PAUL – People choosing to drive drunk are increasingly in the minority on Minnesota roads, and the number of traffic fatalities due to alcohol continues to drop. The recently released Minnesota Impaired Driving Facts 2014 report shows impaired-related traffic fatalities dropped to 91 in 2014. That compares with 121 in 2010 (25 percent decrease) and continues a five year downward trend.

 

Impaired-related refers to any driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.

 

The 2014 figures show 25,258 motorists were arrested for DWI, compared with 26,012 in 2013. The fewer number of drivers making a bad choice continues a steady drop from 2006 when 42,016 drivers were arrested for DWI, a 40 percent decrease.

 

“The trends are encouraging, but for a family who’s suffering a horrible loss because of a drunk driver, it’s small comfort when more than 25,000 drunk drivers are still on the road, doing the exact same thing that killed their loved one,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “More Minnesotans are making the smart choice, and we ask drivers to ‘join the crowd’ and plan a sober ride before going out with friends and family.”

 

The annual report details crashes and DWI incidences by factors such as age, county, conviction rate and recidivism. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) publishes the report for insight to help guide education and enforcement campaigns.

 

Lives Lost and Lives Changed Forever

Of the 361 people who died in traffic crashes last year, figures show:

  • 111 deaths (31 percent) were alcohol-related (any evidence of alcohol detected in a driver, pedestrian or bicyclist).
  • 88 people (24 percent) died in drunk driving-related crashes (driver alcohol concentration of .08 percent or greater).

 

One out of every seven licensed drivers in Minnesota has at least one DWI and one in four traffic deaths are drunk driving-related. In addition, 2,040 people suffered injuries in alcohol-related crashes in 2014.

 

Fewer High Alcohol Content Offenders

Minnesota lawmakers strengthened sanctions against high alcohol content offenders (.20 BAC or higher) in 1998 and again in 2011 (.16 BAC or higher). In the .20 BAC category, there has been a 36 percent drop in violators since 1998 (6,079 in 1998 compared with 3,880 in 2014). This year, legislative action increased a .16 BAC violation to a gross misdemeanor.

 

Not-a-Drop Law Curbing Under-21 Offenders

Minnesota lawmakers passed the Not-a-Drop law in 1993 to make it illegal for people under 21 to drive with any alcohol in their blood. Violations initially climbed from 1,350 in 1995 to nearly 3,400 in 1999. Over the past decade, violations dropped to 541 last year. If a person under 21 has a BAC of .08 or more, regular DWI laws apply instead of the underage consumption while driving offense.

 

Most DWI Arrests are First Time Offenders

The pattern in recent years is 40 percent of drivers arrested for DWI are repeat offenders and about 60 percent do not have any arrests on record.

 

Counties with Highest and Lowest Percentage of Population with DWIs

Overall, 11.1 percent of Minnesota’s population has a DWI on record. When looking at the top counties in each category:

  • The five counties with the highest percentages are north and west of the Twin Cities: Mahnomen (23.1 percent); Mille Lacs (17.2 percent); Cass (16.1 percent); Clearwater (15.9 percent); and Aitkin (15.7 percent).
  • The five counties with the lowest percentages are primarily in the lower half of Minnesota: Stevens (8.0 percent); Rock (8.1 percent); Carver (8.9 percent); Lincoln (9.2 percent); Washington (9.3 percent); and Olmsted (9.4 percent).

 

Prevent Drunk Driving

  • Plan for a safe ride – designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.
  • Offer to be a designated driver, or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere.
  • Buckle up – the best defense against a drunk driver.
  • Speak up – call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.

 

DWI Consequences

  • Loss of license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in costs and possible jail time.
  • Repeat DWI offenders, as well as first-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level, must use ignition interlock in order to regain legal driving privileges or face at least one year without a driver’s license.
  • Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.

 

Definitions

  • Driving While Impaired (DWI) is a violation for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Alcohol-related: any evidence of alcohol detected in a driver, pedestrian or bicyclist.
  • Impaired-related: any driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.
  • Drunk-driving-related: any driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.

 

About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.

 

About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.

 

DPS-OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety program. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes – education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma response.

 

Recent DPS-OTS Activity and Statistics

  • Officers, deputies and troopers made 1,513 arrests during the enhanced DWI enforcement campaign Aug. 21 – Sept. 7; that’s compared with 1,340 during the campaign a year ago.
  • Increased fines for repeat texting while driving offenders went into effect August 1. Under the enhanced law, drivers face a $225 fine for second and subsequent violations of the texting while driving law, in addition to the current $50 fine. The $275 fine, plus court fees, can cost an offender more than $300.
  • Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2014 is a summary of traffic crashes derived from law enforcement reports and describes how, why and where crashes occurred and who was involved.

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