Ask A Trooper

Sgt. Jesse Grabow

Eggnog. Mulled wine. Seasonal beers and festive cocktails. The holidays can pose tough choices. But there’s one choice that’s not only easy to make; it will save lives. That’s the choice not to drive if you’ve been drinking.

For people who make the wrong choice, though, there are extra DWI patrols on Minnesota roads. The campaign started Nov. 24 and runs through New Year’s Eve. More than 300 law enforcement agencies throughout the state are working together to get drunk drivers off the road.

Last year, from the day before Thanksgiving through Dec. 30, there were 1,588  people arrested for impaired driving. And in all of 2020, 22,653  people were arrested for DWIs. Granted, that means those people were taken off the roads, but enough stayed on to contribute to 26 deaths during the holiday extra patrol period over the last five years (2016-2020).

The holidays are the time of year when people gather with family and friends, often traveling great distances to do so. But in too many cases, someone’s choice to drive drunk replaces joyful get-togethers with tragedy. Fortunately, if you plan ahead and Drive Smart, avoiding such tragedy isn’t hard. If you’re headed to a party with friends, decide ahead of time who will be the sober driver; use a taxi, bus, or train; or arrange to stay wherever the party is. Their couch may not be the most comfortable, but it’s better than a jail cell or a coffin.

Always use your seat belt, whether you’ve been drinking or not. You can’t control whether others drive impaired, but your seat belt is the best defense when they do.

Lastly, speak up. Loved one heading out to a party? Offer to pick them up afterward. At a party where an impaired friend is planning to drive home? Help them find a safe ride. Witness an impaired driver on the road? Call 911 and be ready to tell the dispatcher the location, plate number and observed behavior.

The holidays can be such fun. Planning ahead for safe ways to get home allows you to have fun, stay safe, and keep others safe as well. You’ll be avoiding a DWI, but most importantly, you’re avoiding creating an empty seat at someone else’s holiday table, or your own.