MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s no secret drinking and driving don’t mix.
It only takes one drink for a driver to put him or herself, and other drivers on the road, at risk.
In 2010, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports 30,112 DWI arrests. That same year, 112 people were killed in drunk-driving related crashes. In 2014, the agency reports 25,258 arrests; 88 people died from drunk-driving related crashes.
“Through education, enhanced enforcement and awareness, an increasing number of motorists are choosing to drive sober,” Bruce Gordon, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said.
According to preliminary numbers, DWI arrests declined in Minnesota for the eighth straight year, with a 40 percent drop in 2014, compared with 2006.
Still, enforcement is not easing up to prevent drunken driving arrests.
However, a new approach is being added to crackdown efforts.
Twelve law enforcement agencies have received grants designated for DWI enforcement.
They will help determine if it’s more effective to have one person for enforcement in selected jurisdictions, in addition to periodic saturation patrols.
The grants, federally financed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are awarded by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and Office of Traffic Safety. The amount ranges between $160,000 and $200,000.
“Originally, the grant was to fund for eight full-time DWI officers at separate agencies,” Gordon said. “That was expanded to 12.”
The agencies receiving money under the DWI program include, Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, City of Lino Lakes Police Division, Coon Rapids Police Department, Duluth Police Department, Edina Police Department, Hopkins Police Department, Lakeville Police Department, Minneapolis Police Department, New Brighton Police Department, Olmsted Police Department, Richfield Police Department and the St. Cloud Police Department.
The Coon Rapids Police Department is already putting the money to work.
Police Chief Brad Wise said the department arrests, on average, 200 to 250 drivers every year on DWI charges.
Officer Adam Jacobson is the new full-time DWI officer for the Coon Rapids Police Department.
“I’m looking for people who are either weaving within their lane, making sudden and unexpected braking, speeding up slowing down,” Jacobson said. “How they make a turn, somebody makes a really wide or really sharp turn that could sometimes be a clue someone has been drinking,”
A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in costs and possible jail time. According to the state’s department of public safety, “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.”
The grant is expected to last four years. The money funds salaries, vehicle and equipment expenses. Officers must work during peak drinking and driving hours and major holidays.
Gordon said currently there are six actively working full time DWI Officers. By the end of September, all 12 agencies will have officers on the road.