ST PAUL, Minn. — When bars and restaurants were closed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesotans were staying home, driving less, and the number of DWIs issued by law enforcement dipped accordingly.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety Director Mike Hanson says during the summer months of 2019, law enforcement arrested around 2,000 people per month for DWI. Statistics say 89 people lost their lives last year in crashes directly related to impaired driving.
This year, Hanson says arrests were running about half that number up through June. But as COVID restrictions were relaxed and establishments began opening back up again, DWIs escalated accordingly, back to a 2,000 per month level.
"We are right back where we started," he reflected.
In what has become an annual effort to make Minnesota roads safer, DPS will launch an extra enforcement and awareness campaign that will run from Friday, Aug. 14 through Monday, Sept. 7. Using federal funds acquired by the state, more than 300 police and sheriff's departments and the State Patrol will run overtime shifts over the next three weeks looking for drunk or drugged drivers.
The Labor Day weekend, which ends Sept. 7, has the third highest ratio of DWI arrests per hour of any time period during the calendar year, trailing only Halloween and July 4 weekend.
Hanson shared a message during a kickoff press conference Thursday, reminding Minnesota drivers that they have more options to get home safely after drinking - designated drivers, cabs, ride shares - than they ever have. To put the keys in the ignition and drive while impaired, he says, is a selfish decision.
"There is no excuse to end up in the back seat of a squad car, an ambulance, or even a hearse," Hanson said. "It takes good, smart decision-making in order to keep these tragedies from happening."
Aside from it being dangerous for yourself and others, there are additional reasons to not drive while impaired:
- 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.
The DPS also took a moment to honor a team they call "The DWI All-Stars," 48 law enforcement officers statewide who made a combined 3,170 arrests for driving while impaired in 2019. These officers are usually honored for their community safety efforts at a Twins game, but with no fans allowed in Target Field the tradition was put on hold.
Here is a complete list of the officers honored this year for their DWI enforcement efforts.
Greater Minnesota All-Stars
(DWI All-Stars and Number of 2019 DWI Arrests)
- Nate Curtiss, Austin Police – 31
- Taylor Halverson, Baxter Police – 54
- Lance Herbst, Baxter Police – 32
- Matt Gerving, Becker County Sheriff – 37
- Anthony Petrie, Beltrami County Sheriff – 64
- Jeff Amey, Bemidji Police – 81
- Bidal Duran Jr., Bemidji Police – 39
- Tyler Sinclair – Big Lake Police – 43
- Adam Suckow, Blue Earth County Sheriff – 60
- Chris Arkell, Blue Earth County Sheriff – 48
- Chris Leonard, Buffalo Police – 73
- Taylor Znajda, Crookston Police – 30
- Corey Sammons, Douglas County Sheriff – 39
- Jamie Meyer, Mower County Sheriff – 62
- Allen Mekash, Otter Tail County Sheriff – 32
- Jeff Rowden, Pipestone County Sheriff – 32
- Eric Christenson, Rochester Police – 41
- Darin Vossen, St. Cloud Police – 163
- Chad Myers, Winona County Sheriff – 56
- James Dunn, Nicollet County Attorney’s Office
- Zachary Borchardt, Minnesota State Patrol District 2700 (Duluth) – 100
- Eric Bormann, Drug Recognition Evaluator, Minnesota State Patrol District 2100 (Rochester) – 23
Twin Cities All-Stars
- Eric Derner, Anoka County Sheriff – 58
- Cory Christianson, Apple Valley Police – 95
- Dan Stefczak, Blaine Police – 68
- Jon Grimes, Dakota County Sheriff – 53
- Chad Streiff, Eden Prairie Police – 79
- Ben Wenande, Edina Police – 131
- Jesse Penman, Edina Police – 57
- Jacob Johnson, Inver Grove Heights Police – 40
- Charlie Nelson, Oakdale Police – 42
- Randall Axtell, St. Paul Police – 154
- Alex Graham, St. Paul Police – 109
- Adam Crain, Drug Recognition Evaluator, Savage Police – 12
- Vadim Romanets, Shakopee Police – 36
- Cortnie Miranowski, Shakopee Police – 36
- Mike Mallet, Stillwater Police – 37
- Michael Ramos, Washington County Sheriff – 112
- Antonio Brown, White Bear Lake Police – 119
- AJ Veenendall, Woodbury Police – 59
- Tommy Satele, Woodbury Police - 50
- Amy J. Tripp-Steiner, Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office
- Gustavo Culbeaux, Minnesota State Patrol District 2500 (Golden Valley) – 179
- Keenan Jones, Minnesota State Patrol District 2500 (Golden Valley) – 95
- Steven Lindbeck, Minnesota State Patrol District 2500 (Golden Valley) – 89
- Zachary Hansen, Minnesota State Patrol District 2400 (Oakdale) – 126
- Kyle Koeberl, Minnesota State Patrol District 2400 (Oakdale) – 92
- Kendall LeMay, Minnesota State Patrol District 2400 (Oakdale) – 102