A new DWI law in Minnesota makes it a crime to operate an ATV or snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The recent death of an 8-year-old boy killed by a drunk driver on a snowmobile prompted Minnesota lawmakers to impose the steeper penalties for impaired ATV and snowmobile drivers.
Drunk Driving Laws Now Include Recreational Vehicles
Minnesota lawmakers have passed legislation that makes drunk driving on ATVs and snowmobiles an offense. Currently, a loophole in the law allows impaired drivers or those with a prior DWI conviction to operate an ATV or snowmobile. New DWI laws will allow convictions for drunk driving whether drivers are on roads and highways, water, snow, or open trails. The legislation will also prevent anyone convicted of a drunk driving offense from operating a car, ATV or snowmobile. Driving privileges for an ATV or snowmobile will be revoked for one year.
New DWI laws were prompted by the death of a young boy killed in a snowmobile crash. The boy was hit by a drunk driver on a snowmobile while ice fishing with his parents on a Chisago County lake in January. The 45-year-old snowmobile driver was inebriated and traveling at a high rate of speed when he slammed into the 8-year-old boy and his dad. The boy was rushed to a hospital in St. Paul in critical condition, where he died five days later from severe head trauma. An investigation into the snowmobile driver’s background showed that he had a history of drunk driving, and his driver’s license had previously been revoked three times for alcohol-related incidents. He was arrested and charged with two counts of criminal vehicular operation.
The new DWI law has the full support of Minnesota law enforcement, as well as the Minnesota United Snowmobile Association and The Department of Natural Resources. They point out that outdoor recreational vehicles like ATVs and snowmobiles are heavy machines capable of traveling at dangerously fast speeds and causing serious injuries and fatalities. In the event of a crash, they pose a high risk of serious injuries to accident victims including fractures and broken bones, permanent disfigurement, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and death. Accident statistics show that a large percentage of ATV and snowmobile crashes involve drunk drivers who are impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, reckless driving, and negligent behavior.