MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Authorities believe alcohol is to blame for a driver’s excessive speed down a Dakota County highway.

Friday morning, authorities say a Dakota County Sheriff’s sergeant clocked 32-year-old Melissa Carmichael doing 120 miles per hour. She was later arrested for driving drunk.

Sgt. Matt Schuster was checking vehicle speeds with a radar gun on Highway 52, south of Coates Friday morning. Just before 1 a.m., Sgt. Schuster noticed one vehicle driving much faster than the flow of traffic.

“As he was monitoring the speeds on the highway, he had a car driving 120 miles at him,” Captain Dan Bianconi of the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office said.

At speeds nearly double the speed limit, safety immediately became a concern. Law enforcement have to think about their safety, the safety of other drivers and the driver they’re pursuing.

“Everything for us is about risk and reward,” Capt. Bianconi said. “[Are] our actions, risking driving that fast to catch this person, going to be a big enough reward to catch them?”

It took Sgt. Schuster six miles to catch up to the Mini Cooper headed in the northbound lane.

“Six miles is a long way,” Capt. Bianconi said. “Normally, we can catch up to them pretty quick.”

Authorities say it soon became obvious that pursuing the driver was worth the risk. When Carmichael came to a stop, authorities say she admitted she’d been drinking. Carmichael told officers she was headed home from Red Wing.

“In this case, it’s hard to say how many drinks she actually had, but she was nearly twice the legal limit,” Capt. Bianconi said.

It is a scenario that plays out all too often, though sometimes with a much different outcome. In 2014, 110 people died in alcohol related crashes in Minnesota.

“If only we were lucky enough, like we were last night, to basically stop something before it happened,” Capt. Bianconi said.

The night ended in an arrest, but for law enforcement the potential alternative is far worse.

“I think it was a matter of time before she crashed and hurt her or someone else,” Capt. Bianconi said.

Carmichael was booked and released Friday morning.

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