Police and law enforcement will increase DWI enforcement in the 13 Minnesota counties that ranked highest in drunk driving fatalities and serious alcohol related injuries, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The extra patrols will be part of a 12-month program to reduce traffic fatalities across the state.
According to data from 2009-2011, Hennepin County is the leading county for drunk driving deaths, with Ramsey, St. Louis, Anoka and Dakota County rounding out the top five. Olmsted, Washington, Sterns, Wright, Sherburne, Becker, Meeker and Otter Tail make up the top 13, and combined they account for nearly half of the state’s drunk driving fatalities.
Law enforcement in these counties will have heightened patrols on high traffic roads, and they will use electronic signs to alert motorists of their increased presence. Department of Public Safety Officer Jean Ryan said he believes the program will help curb the trend in drunk driving fatalities.
“These counties account for a great portion of our drunk driving tragedies and investing in DWI enforcement and education can help prevent impaired driving incidents,” said Ryan.
The Department of Public Safety said increased patrols will catch more offenders, but they encourage the public to take steps to prevent drunk driving. This includes planning a safe ride home with a sober driver and reporting suspected drunk drivers to 911.
This isn’t surprising, considering that Hennepin County has both the highest population and is one of the most densely populated counties in Minnesota. There has been a strong trend across the state in recent years to increase both enforcement rates and penalties for DWI offenses in an effort to reduce fatalities and injuries, especially around the holidays, when even people who rarely drink are much more likely to be out at events where alcohol is consumed. Given this increased enforcement and the ever-steepening criminal and civil penalties for DWIs, drivers would be well-advised to plan a sober ride if they are planning to drink, especially during the holiday season.