Recent figures released by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety reveal the final DWI tally from 2011 and the numbers appear to mark an improvement. The survey shows that the state saw 111 deaths due to drunk driving, a figure which represents a 40% drop in such deaths over the 185 which occurred just a decade ago.
Though this is great news in terms of the safety of Minnesota’s roadways, law enforcement officials have said this will not change the fact that driving while intoxicated remains a top priority for officers across the state. Even with the 40% reduction, officials say that DWI-related crashed still make up a third of the state’s yearly traffic fatalities and they are determined to bring that percentage down.
Looking at the numbers from a slightly larger span of time reveals interesting facts. First, between 2007 and 2011, there were 651 deaths due to drunk driving across the state, meaning that the average for this span of time was right at 130 deaths per year. Males in Minnesota received a disproportionate share of the state’s DWIs, at 73 percent. Young drivers were the most likely age group to be arrested for drunk driving, with 42 percent of arrests involving those between the ages of 20 and 29. Surprisingly, given the state’s drinking age, one out of every 15 arrests for DWI were for those under the age of 21. Most worrisome for those of us out for a drive are the 1,265 people in the state who have each managed to rack up 10 or more DWI convictions.
Some bad news contained in the recent report involves the number of Minnesotans swept up in the state’s enforcement campaign. Between 2007 and 2011 a shocking 166,962 drivers in Minnesota were arrested for driving while intoxicated. Last year alone the number clocked in at 29,257, with nearly half the arrests occurring in the Twin Cities area. This means that statewide one out of every seven drivers has a DWI on their motor vehicle record.
Seventy-six percent of those charged with DWI in 2011 were eventually convicted of the crime; a figure that is likely to increase as the typical rate hovers closer to 85 percent. The conviction rate was far from uniform, with wide disparities seen depending on where in the state you were arrested. The following five counties saw the state’s highest DWI conviction rates in 2011: Red Lake County (93%), Lyon County (92%), Wilkin County (92%), Hubbard County (91%) and Polk County (90%). These rates were drastically higher than those seen in the counties with the lowest DWI conviction rates including Hennepin County (68%), Lincoln County (64%) and the lowest in the state, Lake of the Woods County, where only 60 percent of those arrested for DWI are eventually convicted.
Source: “Minnesota drunken-driving deaths down 40% since 2002,” by Staff Report, published at StarTribune.com.