DPS sending out online message on drunk driving

MARSHALL – Just in time for the New Year’s holiday – and the partying and social nightlife that comes with it – the Minnesota Department of Public Safety is sending a viral message about drunk driving.

With cooperation from three Minnesota citizens who have been arrested for drinking and driving, the DPS is putting out a series of online videos that share stories about the effects of driving drunk.

The first of three videos features the confession of a young man as he talks about the hours and days following his arrest, which included jail time, extensive fees and loss of driving privileges. The video can be viewed at http://youtu.be/z8Agn9r4t1o

“The idea behind these confessions is to highlight the consequences of DWI,” said Shannon Swanson, public information coordinator for DPS. “We wanted to put a face behind it and show that these are real people. DWI offenders are not all just bad people – they’re good people, too, who make poor decisions, and we want to highlight what the consequences are and help people understand they should plan for a sober ride.”

The videos are being released at a time when law enforcement agencies from around the state are adding extra DWI patrols in an effort to prevent drunk driving tragedies during the holiday season. Extra DWI enforcement will continue through the end of the year. Since the enforcement campaign began Nov. 27, at least 2,150 people have been arrested for DWI in Minnesota, the DPS said.

Swanson said the subjects of the videos were easy to work with because they wanted to help spread the message of driving sober.

“They don’t want to have other people go through the experience they had,” she said. “They’re the ones who are aware of the thousands of dollars in costs they had after the DWI and the potential jail time.”

The two other videos will be online in January, Swanson said.

According to the DPS, 104 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2012, and more than 2,600 people suffered injuries in alcohol-related crashes that year. More than 28,000 people were arrested for DWI in 2012, and they had an average alcohol concentration of 0.154, well above the state’s legal limit of .08.

There were 159 impaired driving incidents in Lyon County between 2008-2012, along with five alcohol-related deaths; 29/2 in Lincoln County; 24/1 in Murray County; and 107/7 in Redwood County, according to statistics provided by the DPS. There were also three alcohol-related deaths in Yellow Medicine County in that time span. In all, there were 702 such deaths in Minnesota in those five years.

“The ultimate goal is obviously to reach toward zero deaths,” Swanson said. “There are some basic fundamentals to reaching that. Obviously, driving sober is No. 1, No. 2 is to buckle up, No. 3 is to pay attention while driving, and No. 4 is to obey speed limits.”

A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands of dollars 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.