Alcohol-related deaths, injuries down over last two New Year’s

Published 9:45am Tuesday, January 3, 2012

People acted a little safer statewide during New Year’s celebrations this year.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety reports a significant drop in alcohol-related deaths and serious injuries during the New Year’s holiday in recent years.

According to officials, the statistics indicate revelers are appearing to plan ahead for sober rides.

There were zero alcohol-related deaths on New Year’s during the last two years.

Though there weren’t any car crashes in Austin over the weekend, police made five DWI arrests from 11:20 p.m. New Year’s Eve to 7:30 a.m. New Year’s Day in Austin. That’s more arrests than the past several New Year’s, according to Austin Police Department records. Austin Police made two DWI arrests each on New Year’s Eves in 2008, 2009 and 2010, while they made four in 2007.

Still, DPS 10-year data show a reduction in New Year’s Eve–New Year’s Day alcohol-related deaths and injuries:

—2001–2006: 23 deaths and nine were alcohol-related (39 percent), and 28 of 58 serious injuries, about 48 percent, were alcohol-related. There were 1,552 DWI arrests during this period.

—2006–2011: 13 deaths and only two were alcohol-related (15 percent — lower than the state’s annual alcohol-related fatality rate of more than 30 percent). Of the 33 serious injuries, nine (27 percent) were alcohol-related. There were 1,224 DWI arrests for this period (2011 DWIs not available).

“Awareness of DWI enforcement and New Year’s Eve partiers making smart plans for sober rides home have made the holiday safer,” said Jean Ryan, DPS Office of Traffic Safety impaired driving coordinator. “It’s important we carry the safe planning habit forward for all year long.”

Many agencies statewide increased DWI patrols on New Year’s Eve to encourage smart decisions.

Consequences for a DWI include loss of license for up to a year, up to $20,000 in legal costs and heightened insurance rates, and possible jail time.

There were 131 alcohol-related deaths in 2010 — a record low — and nearly 30,000 motorists were arrested for DWI. One in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on record.

A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands in costs and possible jail time. Stronger DWI sanctions are now in effect for all repeat DWI offenders, as well as for first-time DWI offenders with a 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level. Under these sanctions, offenders must use ignition interlock for at least one year or face at least a year without driving privileges.

DPS encourages Minnesotans to plan for a safe ride and report impaired driving.

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