Subtitle: Extra DWI Enforcement and Awareness Campaign Nov. 25 – Dec. 31
Page Content: ​ST. PAUL – The holidays will look very different this year with COVID-19 upending so much of what Minnesotans enjoy during this time: large, family gatherings; relaxing with friends at bars and restaurants; and company holiday parties. The pandemic’s effects have not only led to reduced activities and less busy roads, but an alarming climb in traffic fatalities. Impaired driving is part of the problem.

Law enforcement agencies across the state will be preventing impaired driving from further affecting an already difficult year and holiday season for many Minnesotans by increasing their presence on our roads. Officers, deputies and troopers will be participating in an extra DWI enforcement and awareness campaign starting Nov. 25 and running on weekends through Dec. 31. 
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) coordinates the statewide campaign and the funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. New holiday advertising from DPS-OTS will be running to help influence smart choices behind the wheel.
“The pandemic is relentless, spreading among our friends and families, and stressing our healthcare resources,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “We cannot have impaired driving further compromising our critical medical capabilities for those who are truly in need. Plan a sober ride and stop the heartache and empty chairs at the holiday table.” 
Impaired Driving Kills the Holiday Spirit 
Alcohol-related crashes not only take lives, they change them forever. They cause an average of 357 life-changing injuries each year (2015-2019). Seriously injured traffic victims require hospital care in a current healthcare environment that is dealing with a pandemic surge.
Nicholas Simpson, MD, Emergency Physician at Hennepin Healthcare and Medical Director of Hennepin EMS, reminds Minnesotans that hospitals across the state need people to drive smart. 
“As a Level 1 Trauma Center, we specialize in delivering the highest quality care to victims of traumatic life-threatening injuries. This year, the entire healthcare system is facing a demanding new challenge with COVID-19,” said Simpson. “Hospitals throughout the country are increasingly full due to the pandemic. The number of patients is rising rapidly and the healthcare system is incredibly strained right now. Unfortunately, the state’s trauma centers are not immune to these issues. We all need to do our part to combat COVID-19. This includes wearing a mask, following the recommendations from CDC, and Gov. Walz. Your safety on the road plays an important part as well. Wear your seat belt. Please don’t text while driving. Don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Stay safe Minnesota. We’re all in this together.”
Plan Ahead. Drive Smart. Prevent Tragedy.
Impaired drivers lead to increased tragedy. Motorists need to plan ahead for sober rides, regardless of where they are drinking.
  • During 2015 – 2019, 28 people died in drunk driving-related crashes during the holiday DWI extra enforcement period.
  • Of the various holiday time periods throughout 2019, Thanksgiving and July 4th tied for the highest percentage of drunk driving-related fatalities.
  • Nearly one out of every four deaths (22%) on Minnesota roads is drunk driving-related.
  • In the last five years (2015 – 2019), there were 413 drunk driving-related traffic deaths in Minnesota, with 89 people killed in 2019 alone.
A DWI is no Holiday
Motorists who fail to plan ahead for a sober ride may find themselves behind bars and not with family around the holiday table. An impaired driver can also lose their license for up to a year and face thousands of dollars in costs. Other DWI consequences can include:
  • 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.
Driving Sober. The Perfect Holiday Gift.
  • Plan for a safe ride — No matter where you plan to drink, designate a sober driver, use a safe, alternative transportation option, or stay at the location of the celebration.
    • ​​With bars and restaurants closed due to COVID-19, many people will decide to drink at home. The same rules apply, make sure you designated a sober driver or crash on a couch, not in a vehicle, if you’re leaving family gatherings.
  • Speak up – offer to be a designated driver or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere. If you see an impaired person about to get behind the wheel, get them a safe ride home.
  • Buckle up — wearing a seat belt is the best defense against an impaired driver.
  • Report drunk driving — call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.

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.
Director: Bruce Gordon
Primary Contact Email: dave.boxum@state.mn.us
Primary Contact Name: Dave Boxum
Primary Contact Phone: 651-201-7569
Secondary Contact Email: scott.wasserman@state.mn.us
Secondary Contact Name: Scott Wasserman
Secondary Contact Phone: 651-201-7571
Formatted Publish Date: November 24, 2020