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Ask A Trooper: Don’t become a statistic this Labor Day weekend

By Sgt. Troy Christianson

“Let’s have one last celebration before summer ends! What shall we do?”

“Great idea! Let’s spend thousands of dollars in legal fees! Or…spending months in the hospital might be fun. Or how about dying in a car crash?”

If all of that sounds like a ridiculous way to spend Labor Day weekend, we agree. And yet that’s what can happen if you don’t find a sober ride, as a distressing number of people haven’t this year. To be exact, as of Aug. 23, 15,657 DWIs were reported throughout the state compared with 14,871 at the same time in 2020.

The consequences of drunk driving are all undesirable at best. You can lose your license for up to a year, and it’ll cost you thousands of dollars and possible jail time. Your insurance rates could increase significantly. Or, you could cause a crash and seriously injure or even kill yourself or someone else. All terrible ways to wrap up summer.

Yet on a five-year average, Labor Day has the third highest number of DWI arrests per hour compared with other major holidays (in case you’re wondering, St. Patrick’s Day and the Fourth of July are first and second, respectively).

So Minnesota law enforcement are acting accordingly. Troopers, deputies and officers are conducting extra patrols on the roads by stopping impaired drivers. The campaign includes awareness and education, too, and runs through Sept. 6. It’s coordinated by the Office of Traffic Safety with funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Over the long-term, drinking and driving has dropped significantly: DWIs decreased 23 percent from 2011 to 2020, and the number of motorists dying in drunk driving-related crashes dropped 42 percent over that time period. But post-pandemic, those numbers are starting to creep back up again, and that positive long-term change is beginning to slip away.

You can do your part to make sure we don’t lose our momentum. Whether you arrange for a ride share, designate a sober driver, or stay the night at the party, the key is planning ahead while you can still think clearly. And if you see an impaired person try to get behind the wheel, get them a safe ride home. No matter whether you’ve been partying or not, buckle that seat belt. It’s your best defense against an impaired driver. And if you see impaired driving, call 911. Be prepared to tell the dispatcher what behavior you saw, along with your location and the license plate number.

Another Minnesota summer is drawing to a close, and you’ll want to squeeze the last drops of fun out. Just make sure your celebrations don’t include DWIs or catastrophic crashes. There are better ways to spend your Labor Day weekend.

Information shared on the Minnesota Department of Public Safety blog: https://dps.mn.gov/blog/Pages/20210823-extra-dwi-patrols.aspx

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848. (Or reach him at, Troy.Christianson@state.mn.us)