Minnesota drivers will have two reasons to be cautious today, when the State Patrol steps up enforcement of two rules of the road.
Drivers in Minnesota this holiday weekend will be under added scrutiny from the State Patrol on two fronts: Giving clearance to emergency vehicles and drunken driving.
On Saturday, troopers will be watching for drivers who don’t move over or slow down for emergency or maintenance vehicles stopped along roads with their lights flashing.
The one-day focus on the Move-Over provisions will be coupled with increased monitoring for drunken drivers. That campaign will continue through the Labor Day holiday weekend.
Drivers are required to give clearance to law enforcement vehicles, ambulances, fire and maintenance and construction vehicles under the Ted Foss Move Over law, honoring a state trooper who was killed 13 years ago Saturday by a passing vehicle as he was making a traffic stop on the shoulder of Interstate 90 in Winona.
On highways with more than two lanes, drivers are required to give at least one full lane of clearance for emergency responders, or to slow down. Fine for violations can exceed $100.
State safety officials say the law is intended to provide a margin of safety to protect police, emergency and other public workers working in high-risk situations on roadsides.
In a five-month period between late 2010 and early April 2011, 36 state troopers or their vehicles were struck on Minnesota roads. Between 2005 and 2009, the State Patrol cited 9,173 motorists for Move Over violations, while at least 100 trooper vehicles were hit and 31 troopers were injured. The Minnesota Department of Transportation reported that 62 road maintenance vehicles were hit in 2010 and five workers were injured.
The state Office of Traffic Safety reported this week that deaths due to drunken driving in Minnesota declined from 111 to 104 from 2011 through 2012, and down from 205 a decade ago. The fatalities in 2011 were 26 percent of all traffic deaths — down from 60 percent in the 1960s.
More than 28,000 drivers were arrested for impaired driving in Minnesota in 2012, more than for any other criminal offense. More than 40 percent of them had at least one prior drunken driving offense.
But drunken driving arrests peaked at 41,951 in 2006 and have dropped steadily to 28,418 in 2012, the lowest total in 30 years. Statewide, 6.3 percent of all Minnesota residents had at least one DWI incident on their driving record in 2012.
Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646