New Year's revelers playing it safer on Minnesota's roads

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 2, 2013 - 12:24 AM

For 5th straight year, there were no fatal alcohol-related crashes on state highways on New Year's Eve.

New Year's Eve revelers appear to be getting the message about the perils of mixing drinking and driving, according to Lt. Eric Roeske of the State Patrol.

For the fifth consecutive New Year's Eve night, there were no alcohol-related fatalities on state highways and freeways, a period beginning at 6 p.m. Monday and ending at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Roeske said.

There was one highway death in northern Minnesota on Monday evening, but it did not appear alcohol was involved. Alcohol did appear to play a role in a fatal snowmobile crash in Stearns County, authorities said.

Roeske said 25 motorists were arrested by the State Patrol for driving while intoxicated in that time frame, compared with 20 last New Year's Eve. Those numbers don't include arrests by local law enforcement agencies on city and county roads.

"It's difficult to ascertain what we prevent," Roeske said, but a public awareness effort about beefed-up patrols, publicity about the consequences of drunken driving and a toughening of state DWI laws in 2011 are helping drivers make better choices. Those efforts will continue.

"Impaired-driving prevention and enforcement remains one of our top priorities," he said.

There are other possible factors helping the numbers as well, he added. The frigid weather might have kept more people home, and the holiday fell on a Monday night rather than on a weekend.

But in recent years, Roeske added, New Year's Eve, along with other red-flag DWI days like Super Bowl Sunday and St. Patrick's Day, seem to have evolved to where those who plan to imbibe are heeding advice and throwing more parties at home or making arrangements for safe rides. Brewing giant MillerCoors and Metro Transit again sponsored free bus and light-rail rides, and other options are available.

In Monday's accident, Samuel Deotis, 27, of Bigfork, Minn., died on Hwy. 6 about 12 miles north of Deer River. A passenger was critically injured.

Deotis was southbound and trying make a left turn near milepost 101 when he was struck broadside by a semitrailer truck, also heading south, just before 5 p.m. He died at the scene.

In the Stearns County snowmobile crash, a 33-year-old man from Grey Eagle struck a tree in Melrose Township about 8:20 p.m. Monday. The man, who was not identified, was responsive but was having trouble breathing, the Sheriff's Office said. He was taken to Melrose Area Hospital, where he later died.

Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report. Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson

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