Ask a trooper: Ongoing efforts required to limit deaths from drunken drivingSend your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to: Ask the trooper, DNT, 424 W. First St., Duluth MN 55802. You may remain anonymous if you wish.
Q: I had just heard that police officers in the area are targeting drunk drivers in December. I also heard recently that traffic deaths involving alcohol were at an all-time low in Minnesota. Why is it that with record low numbers you putting so much emphasis on alcohol and driving? Shouldn’t you be going after other drivers that are doing things that cause accidents?
A: I understand what you are saying, but we need to realize a couple of issues as they relate to impaired driving. The first is that we are at a record low number of alcohol-related traffic deaths because of efforts such as the enhanced enforcement as well as many others such as education, engineering and our emergency personnel. All have worked hard to ensure everyone’s safety. Another concerning issue is that even though we are at all-time lows, still about one-third of all of Minnesota’s traffic fatalities involve alcohol. That number has remained fairly consistent through the recent years and definitely could be much lower. The third is that December is historically a month where a high percentage of traffic deaths are related to drinking and driving. We all are aware of the holidays and celebrations that occur throughout this month. Many of which include alcohol.
Our goal is not to stop people from going out and enjoying themselves. Drinking alcohol is a personal choice and legal for people older than 21. Our goal is to have people who choose to use alcohol make intelligent decisions about their driving and make those choices before they go out to celebrate, otherwise you make decisions about your driving with impaired judgment. Many drivers at this point make the wrong decision and it affects all of our safety on the road.
Local safety groups, such as Driving for Safe Communities, the Mesaba Safe Community Coalition, and Toward Zero Deaths work with law enforcement to identify and address issues in their prospective regions and throughout the state. With the record low number of alcohol-related traffic deaths in 2010, the efforts appear to be working. We still have work to do and the efforts will continue.
Sgt. Mark Baker is a member of the Minnesota State Patrol.