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Plan a sober ride this holiday season: Extra DWI patrols looking for drivers impaired under any substance

Nov 23, 2023 06:00AM ● By Content Editor

Photo: Scott Rodgerson

From the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety - November 23, 2023

Law enforcement statewide will be watching the roads and protecting people from impaired drivers as the holiday season begins. The campaign, which includes extra DWI enforcement and awareness, begins Nov. 22 and runs weekends through New Year’s Eve.

“What’s My Why”​

During the campaign, law enforcement will be sharing on Minnesota Department of Public Safety social media channels what motivates them to prevent impaired driving tragedies. Their personal stories drive them to keep people safe and include:

  • Getting impaired drivers off the road is one of the best proactive ways to save lives.
  • Responding to crash scenes and doing death notifications is a motivator to protect other families from going through that same heartache.
  • A driver arrested for DWI later shared how the arrest was a wake-up call, and it changed her life for the better.
  • Losing three friends to a drunk driver.
  • A sister’s childhood best friend dying at a young age due to careless and impaired driving.
  • Losing wages, health and time with family after being hit by a drunk driver.

Prevent tragedy: Make the safe and sober choice

To help ensure fun holiday memories last a lifetime, troopers, deputies and police officers will be arresting drivers who are impaired by alcohol or other substances. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) coordinates the enforcement and awareness campaign​ with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

“Seeing family and friends and enjoying our favorite holiday foods make this time of year so special,” said OTS Director Mike Hanson. “Have fun but plan ahead if alcohol or other impairing substances such as cannabis and THC edibles are part of the celebration. Sober choices behind the wheel will help keep you and your loved ones safe.”

Impaired is impaired, regardless of the substance

There's more than one way to be impaired behind the wheel. In addition to alcohol, cannabis can impair driving abilities. Reaction time is slower and understanding of distance and speed is different. Other substances, ranging from hemp-derived THC edibles to prescription medications and sleep aids, can also affect safe driving abilities.

Sobering statistics

  • During 2018-2022, 50 people died in drunk driving-related crashes, and there were more than 11,000 DWI incidents from the day before Thanksgiving through Dec. 31.
  • Drugged driving accounted for 8,069 DWI incidents from 2013-2017 compared with 15,810 from 2018-2022 — that’s a 96 percent increase.

DWI consequences

  • 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.
  • First-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above are required to use interlock for one year.
  • Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.

A DWI is no holiday

  • On the day before Thanksgiving and over the holiday season, plan a safe and sober ride by designating a sober driver, using a safe, alternative transportation option, or staying at the location of the celebration.
  • Speak up: Offer to be a designated driver or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere. If you see an impaired person about to get behind the wheel, get them a safe ride home.
  • If you plan to drive, refrain from drugs, whether legally or illegally obtained. Driving high is a DWI.
  • Just like how drinking alcohol in a vehicle is illegal, it’s illegal for drivers or passengers to open cannabis packaging or consume cannabis while driving.
  • Buckle up: It’s the best defense against an impaired driver you may encounter on the road.
  • Report impaired driving: Call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.


About the Minnesota Department Public Safety

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 10 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.

About the Office of Traffic Safety

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) designs, implements and coordinates state and federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. These efforts form a strong foundation for the statewide Toward Zero Deaths​ traffic safety program. OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program, child seats for needy families program and school bus stop arm camera project.