MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every year, police arrest thousands of people on suspicion of drunk driving in Minnesota.
The majority of those arrests happen on weekends and in the overnight hours. But, there is a small percentage of drunk drivers who are taken into custody in the morning hours when most of us aren’t thinking about the dangers of drunk drivers.
In Duluth, the intersection of Mesaba Avenue and Central Entrance Drive is a road well-traveled. The rhythm of the overhead traffic light is what grabs most drivers’ attention. It’s where Don Boso found himself, two years ago.
“This is the route I took, exactly the same route. I took it every day,” said Boso, who was hit by a drunk driver. “It was the last thing I expected.”
What happened next is a story we hear all too often.
“The light turned red, I stopped. Light turned green, I went; and that’s all I remember,” Boso said.
An unsuspecting driver hit by someone who had too much to drink.
“I think, they said, they didn’t expect me to survive the first 24 hours,” he said.
But the major difference in Boso’s story is the time of day. It was just after 6 a.m.
“It’s a new day. You think people have ended their night activities, and…some haven’t,” Boso said.
The search for drunk drivers is part of the job for all law enforcement.
“It’s definitely out there,” said Mike Schneider, an Eagan Police officer.
WCCO tagged along with Eagan police officers, Alison Burstein and Schneider, over two weekend mornings. Each had their own style of patrolling the city.
“I kind of just get to roam around and go, I guess, where I feel,” said Schneider.
Burstein looks for situational scenarios.
“I like to kind of run through the restaurants and bars and just make sure no body is sleeping in their car, or…picking up their car and maybe they shouldn’t be driven yet,” Burstein said.
Police said morning drunk drivers typically fall into two categories: There are the chronic drinkers and then there are those who get behind the wheel, too soon, after a night of partying.
“A lot of people just think, you know, ‘Oh, I’ll just go and sleep it off for a couple hours, have something to eat and I’ll be fine,'” Burstein said.
Every stop gives officers a chance to see if the driver is under the influence.
“The more you get ’em talking, the better,” Schneider said.
In the last 15 months, Lt. Eric Roeske with the Minnesota State Patrol said troopers made nearly 6,700 DWI arrests across the state.
Five percent happened between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m.
“We see people write off driving conduct during the daytime as, ‘Well, that must be someone not paying attention.’ But if they saw the same driving behavior at night, they would say, ‘Oh, that person must be drunk,'” Roeske said.
It’s a disconnect that keeps other drivers from calling 911.
“We rely on those calls from the public to identify them and get those drivers stopped,” Roeske said.
For Boso, that call could have saved him from near death.
“It was a couple of months where I basically lived in a chair, because I couldn’t really do anything,” Boso said.
Now healed, Boso still passes through the Mesaba Avenue — Central Entrance intersection almost every day, hoping his story is a wake-up call for all drivers.
“I was one of the fortunate ones,” Boso said.
State Patrol officials said that 911 calls from the public account for about 25-30 percent of all DWI arrests.
In the morning hours, officers most often find drunk drivers after they’ve already been in a crash.