Minnesota state patrol collaborated with law enforcement agencies to increase DWI surveillance and enforcement during the Labor Day weekend in 2021. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) mobilized officers from over 300 agencies to work overtime during the holiday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provided funding to cover public education and intensified DWI enforcement.
It is normal for law enforcement agencies to escalate DWI patrols during the summer months because they are the most dangerous months for road users in the state. Data from the DPS indicates that 127 people died in drunk driving crashes during the summer months in the period 2014 to 2018. The number of people arrested during Labor Day weekend those years ranged from 400 to 500. Labor Day is the third most dangerous holiday in Minnesota after the Fourth of July and Halloween.
Driving while intoxicated is a serious offense in Minnesota and attracts sanctions such as suspended licenses and jail time for some offenders. First-time offenders with a BAC of above 0.16 and repeat offenders must install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles to regain driving privileges. Third and fourth-degree offenders must use interlock devices for three to six years according to the terms of their sanctions.
The initiative’s stated goal was to help drivers make smart decisions on the road and keep roads safe for all users. The DPS has intensified public education, urging drivers to take responsibility for their actions. They advise road users to ensure they are sober before taking the wheel to avoid making decisions while impaired. The law enforcement agencies warn that one wrong decision can lead to a lifetime of regret.
Surge in DWIs
DUI numbers trended downwards at the height of the pandemic, but the figure has since spiked as businesses resume and more people hit the roads. For example, July 2020 had over 2000 impaired driving arrests, which is close to the historical average. The DPS was correct in expecting DWI incidents in 2021 to be worse than last year as there has been a general trend throughout the state of people expressing their frustration with the pandemic by partying hard. According to reports, law enforcement arrested 373 drivers for DWI over the holiday weekend. On average, there are 280 DWI arrests in Minnesota during a non-holiday weekend.