Promoting the safe choice; Extra DWI patrols out through New Year’s Eve

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Statewide and local law enforcement have a message as people start their holiday celebrations: Keep making the right decision to not drive while impaired.

The Austin Police Department and Mower County Sheriff’s Office are joining more than 300 law enforcement agencies across the state in an annual holiday campaign to put extra DWI patrols on the roads at peak times through New Year’s as part of a Toward Zero Deaths campaign through the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.

“There will be extra enforcement throughout the state,” said Capt. David McKichan of the Austin PD. “We will be doing our part locally.”

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The extra enforcements hit the road tonight, as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is traditionally seen as a time when families come together, students return home from college, and people begin holiday celebrations that will include work and family gatherings through New Year’s.

McKichan thanked people who make the right choice to not drive while impaired during the holidays and opt to leave their vehicle or secure a sober ride. In fact, McKichan added he believes the majority of people make the wise decision.

Statewide, the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety left notes on vehicles near Twin Cities establishments recently thanking customers for being responsible citizens.

“Thank you for deciding not to drink and drive,” the message read. “Your life and the lives of others depend on making the right choice.”

Businesses are also joining the holiday campaign and aims to get more people to join the crowd and find a sober ride after consuming alcohol.

“It’s way more valuable to us for our customers to be safe than to have an open parking space at our establishment,” said Emily Brink, operations manager at The Happy Gnome in St. Paul, in a press release.

Statewide, law enforcement sees signs drivers are heading the warnings over the holidays as November (1,931) and December (1,876) were the months with the lowest number of DWI arrests in 2015, while the highest was August with 2,450.

“It just takes that one moment, that one time to shatter a life forever,” Office of Traffic Safety Director Donna Berger said in a press release. “If you are truly someone’s friend or a family member of someone who is impaired, you won’t let them get behind the wheel this holiday season.”

DWI Consequences

•Loss of license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in costs and possible jail time.

•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.

Prevent Drunk Driving

•Plan for a safe ride: Designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.

•Speak ip: Offer to be a designated driver, or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere.

•Buckle up: The best defense against a drunk driver.

•Report drunk driving: Call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.

—Source: Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.