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DWIs Down, Traffic Fatalities Up

DWIs Down, Traffic Fatalities Up – Driving in Minnesota in the (Strange) Time of the Coronavirus

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Since Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-20 in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, directing all citizens to stay-at-home, traffic on state roadways has declined over the past few weeks by approximately 71 percent in rural areas and nearly 78 percent in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.  While there has been a statewide decrease in driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrests in the past few weeks, traffic fatalities on Minnesota roads have risen significantly.

Since the governor declared a health care emergency in late March 2020, the number of arrests for DWI in Minnesota has declined at a rate proportionally similar to the reduction in traffic overall. The Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) reports that the number of arrests for DWI throughout the state have fallen 70% as compared with the same time period in 2019.

For the weekend of February 21-24, 2020 law enforcement made 349 DWI arrests throughout Minnesota. By the weekend of March 27-30, that number had dropped to 94 (compared to 293 arrests for the same weekend in 2019).

Although the forced closure of all Minnesota bars and restaurants pursuant to the order has had an impact on the number of DWI arrests, other factors contributing to the reduction include the cancellation of events involving large social gatherings where alcohol is served including sporting events, concerts, festivals and shows.

While DWI arrests are down, the OTS reports that traffic fatalities in Minnesota have increased by over 50 percent from the same time period last year. During the first three weeks of the order, 28 people died on Minnesota roadways compared with 13 fatalities over the same three-week period in 2019.

The Minnesota State Patrol and the OTS both attribute the climb in traffic fatalities to poor driving behavior – including speeding, road rage, aggressive driving and careless driving. There also may be an incorrect perception among some drivers that speed limits and other traffic laws are not being enforced by police during the COVID-19 emergency period.

Whether in your home or on the road, please stay healthy and safe during these uncertain times.

If you find yourself facing DWI, OWI or other charges involving violation of traffic laws and need to explore your options for getting your driving privileges restored, our seasoned lawyers can help. Attorneys are available 24-7 — Call us at 612-334-3342.

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