ST. PAUL – More than 300 law enforcement agencies will be working overtime this holiday season, hoping to prevent the type of tragedy that devastated Courtney Pogones and her family when she was 12 years old. Fourteen years later, Pogones and the driver who killed her mother, Craig Barnd, are together today asking Minnesotans to drive sober.
The extra DWI enforcement campaign starts November 25 and runs on weekends through January 2, 2016. The statewide enforcement involves police departments, sheriff’s offices and the State Patrol. Officers, deputies and troopers work overtime enforcement with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) coordinates the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement and education effort.
Holiday DWIs by the Numbers
Most people think about a sober ride home when making their New Year’s plans, but statistics show motorists need to pay just as much attention to other holiday periods. The percentage of drunk-driving related deaths compared with total traffic fatalities is significantly higher for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods than other major holidays (2010 – 2014).
- Thanksgiving: 53.8 percent
- Christmas: 46.2 percent
- Fourth of July: 40 percent
- Memorial Day: 27.3 percent
- Labor Day: 16.7 percent
- New Year’s Day: 12.5 percent
Tragedy Brings Call-to-Action
Courtney Pogones of Austin, Minn. lost her mom, Nancy Robling, in 2002 when Craig Barnd struck and killed her in a drunk-driving crash near Jordan. Their lives were turned upside down, and together they want Minnesotans to understand that this type of tragedy does not have to happen.
“My life has gone on, but it’s never been the same,” said Pogones. “I don’t want another little girl to go through life without her mom because of one bad decision. That’s why I’m joining Craig today to say ‘enough is enough,’ and to ask Minnesotans to pledge to drive sober, today and every day.”
“I took a life because I chose a drink over a sober ride,” said Barnd. “It’s easy to think ‘I’ve done this before. I’ll be OK.’ That used to be me until my choices caught up with me in the worst way. I want to do what I can to keep others from traveling that same path and living with a lifetime of regret and sadness. Please don’t let this happen to you.”
Drunk Driving by the Numbers
Drunk drivers in the state continue to endanger the people you want to see around the holiday table for years to come — children, parents, grandparents and friends.
- In the last five years (2010 – 2014), there were 479 drunk driving-related traffic deaths in Minnesota, and 88 people were killed in drunk driving-related crashes in 2014 alone.
- Nearly one out of every four deaths on Minnesota roads is drunk driving-related.
- 25,258 motorists were arrested for DWI in 2014 (an average of 70 per day)
“As you plan your holiday celebration, think about the joy you hope to share with family and friends and how so quickly that can disappear because of one bad choice,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “If you don’t plan ahead for a sober ride, a poor, in-the-moment decision can tragically change the lives of so many people, and destroy the joy of future holiday celebrations. Join the majority of Minnesotans who know how they or their loved ones are going to safely get home.”
- 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.
Prevent Drunk Driving
- Plan for a safe ride – designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.
- Offer to be a designated driver, or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere.
- Buckle up – the best defense against a drunk driver.
- Report drunk 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 11 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 (DPS-OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.
DPS-OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety program. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes – education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma response.
Recent DPS-OTS Activity and Statistics
- During October’s Click It or Ticket campaign, law enforcement reported 5,550 motorists were cited for seat belt violations from Oct. 9 – 25, a 33 percent drop from last year’s October wave when 8,195 motorists were ticketed and the lowest since 2010.
- Officers, deputies and troopers made 1,513 arrests during the enhanced DWI enforcement campaign Aug. 21 – Sept. 7; that’s compared with 1,340 during the campaign a year ago.
- Increased fines for repeat texting while driving offenders went into effect August 1. Under the enhanced law, drivers face a $225 fine for second and subsequent violations of the texting while driving law, in addition to the current $50 fine. The $275 fine, plus court fees, can cost an offender more than $300.
Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2014 is a summary of traffic crashes derived from law enforcement reports and describes how, why and where crashes occurred and who was involved.###