Safe, sober rides sought on New Year’s Eve

Motorists are encouraged to plan ahead for a sober ride New Year’s Eve as Minnesota attempts to make it five years in a row with no drunk driving traffic deaths during the holiday, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety.

In the last 10 years, there have been eight drunk driving deaths during the New Year’s holiday; zero in the past four years.

“Statistics show more people are doing the right thing by planning ahead for a safe ride home on New Year’s Eve,” says Jean Ryan, DPS Office of Traffic Safety impaired driving coordinator. “We hope people make a resolution to continue that behavior throughout all of 2013.”

DPS 10-year data shows a reduction in New Year’s Eve—New Year’s Day drunk driving deaths and serious injuries:

2002–2007

•25 deaths; seven (28 percent) involved a drunk driver.

•60 serious injuries; (43 percent) 26 were alcohol-related.

•1,608 DWI arrests (322 per-year average).

2007–2012

•10 deaths; one (10 percent) involved a drunk driver (zero in last four years).

•24 serious injuries; eight (33 percent) were alcohol-related.

•1,477 DWI arrests (295 per-year average).

Despite the downward trend in drunk driving incidents, New Year’s Eve still has the potential to be a dangerous night on Minnesota roads.

“All it takes is one bad decision for our roads to turn deadly,” says Lt. Eric Roeske, Minnesota State Patrol. “In many cases, that bad decision occurs when someone decides get behind the wheel after a night of drinking.”

Many law enforcement agencies statewide, including Elk River and Sherburne County, will be increasing DWI patrols on New Year’s Eve to encourage smart decisions and enforce the law.

DWI consequences

A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands in costs and possible jail time.

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.

Tips to prevent  drunk driving

•Plan for a sober ride — designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.

•Metro Transit is offering free rides on New Year’s Eve from 6 p.m. through the last scheduled trip on buses and light rail.

•Those not planning to drink should let family or friends know they are available to offer a sober ride home.

•Buckle up — the best defenses against a drunk driver.

•Report drunk driving — call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.

‘Toasted’ video

A new TV spot called “Toasted” is being aired this week, to encourage motorists to avoid the dangers and consequences of drunk driving. View the spot at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXDTSwTzTGM&feature=youtu.be, or download a broadcast-quality .MOV file here: http://mndeptpublicsafety.sharefile.com/d/sd19934ec4d94ea29.

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