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Final 2010 Minnesota drunk and impaired driving report released

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety has released 2010 figures showing that the number of alcohol-related crash deaths in Minnesota was the lowest on record.Last year, 131 motorists were killed in alcohol related crashes -- a 21 percent drop from the 166 deaths five years ago (2006).

Jean Ryan, impaired driving coordinator at DPS, cites safe driver decisions and enhanced enforcement and education campaigns as factors for the trend of fewer alcohol-related deaths. Ryan says high-visibility enforcement programs coupled with educational outreach make Minnesotans aware of increased enforcement and encourage use of safe alternatives to avoid driving impaired.

"Despite progress, it remains a source of frustration that this illegal and preventable driving behavior continues to haunt our highways," Ryan says. "There's no excuse for impaired driving. Unfortunately, many Minnesotans continue to find an excuse." 

The fatal alcohol-related crash figures are found in the DPS Office of Traffic Safety Minnesota Motor Vehicle Impaired Driving Facts 2010 report. Today's release of the report coincides with a statewide and nationwide enhanced DWI crackdown running through Labor Day. (See below for comprehensive facts.)

While DPS cites progress of fewer alcohol-related deaths in recent years, such fatalities accounted for 32 percent of 411 total traffic deaths in 2010, matching historical trends.

In Minnesota during 2006-2010, 791 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes -- an average of 170 deaths annually. During this same period 178,887 motorists were arrested for DWI. There were 166 deaths in 2006; 190 in 2007; 163 in 2008; 141 in 2009; and 131 in 2010.

Ryan says Minnesota's fight against impaired driving has also been supported by DWI courts. These judicial-led programs have shown results in establishing long-term behavior change, resulting in decreased DWI arrests and impaired driving among chronic offenders.

A new factor in preventing impaired driving are stronger DWI sanctions for all repeat DWI offenders and for motorists arrested for a first-time DWI with a 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level. Under the new sanctions (effective since July 1), these offenders must use ignition interlock for at least a year or face at least one year without driving privileges. Interlock requires the driver to provide a breath sample in order to start the vehicle.

"Minnesota has many counter-measures that can prevent alcohol-related traffic incidents," says Ryan.  "But we need all motorists to realize impaired driving is a real danger that comes with devastating consequences for crash victims and impaired drivers alike."

Highlights of 2010 Motor Vehicle Impaired Driving Facts:

Alcohol-Related Crashes and Resulting Deaths and Injuries

• 3,743 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 131 deaths and 2,485 injuries.

· 101 (77 percent) of the 131 alcohol-related deaths occurred outside the Twin Cities' metro -- Greater Minnesota accounted for 305 total traffic deaths, of which 33 percent were alcohol-related.

DWI Arrests

· 29,918 motorists were arrested for DWI, translating to 82 DWI arrests a day. There were 32,756 arrests in 2009; 35,736 in 2008; 38,635 in 2007; and 41,842 in 2006. The Twin Cities' metro area and the 80-county Greater Minnesota each accounted for about one-half of all 2010 DWI arrests.

· One in seven current Minnesota drivers (556,162) has a DWI on record, and one in 17 has two or more DWIs.

· 41 percent of those who incur one violation will incur a second within 15 years of their first arrest.

· Males accounted for 73 percent of all DWIs.

· Motorists ages 20-29 represented 42 percent of DWI arrests. One in 14 of the arrests were motorists under age 21.

· 58 percent of violators were first-time offenders, yet 12,436 (42 percent) had at least one prior DWI at the time of arrest. The average alcohol concentration among first-time offenders was 0.15 and 0.16 for repeat offenders.

· 49 percent of the DWI arrests were made on Saturdays and Sundays.

Impaired Drivers and Belt Use

75 percent of drinking drivers killed were not wearing seat belts.

DWI Conviction Rates

· 74 percent of motorists arrested for DWI resulted in a criminal conviction for driving while impaired; this percentage will increase as outstanding cases are settled in courts.  Historically, about 85 percent of DWI arrests result in a conviction each year. 

· The top counties for DWI conviction rates were: Big Stone (100 percent); Lac Qui Parle (97 percent); Swift (95 percent); Sibley (92 percent); Pope (92 percent); and Hubbard (92 percent).

· Counties with the lowest conviction rates: Isanti (62 percent); Murray (63 percent); Ramsey (64 percent); Dakota (65 percent); Pine (65 percent); Washington (66 percent); Hennepin (68 percent); Grant (68 percent); Lake of the Woods (68 percent); Nicollet (69 percent); Waseca (69 percent); Mille Lacs (69 percent); and Anoka (69 percent).

Impaired driving education and enforcement is a component of the state's core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes -- education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.

To-date in 2011 there has been 212 traffic deaths compared to 265 at this time in 2010.