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Minnesota fails in efforts to combat drunken driving, report says

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: February 17, 2014 - 1:23 PM

On Monday Mothers Mothers Against Drunk Driving came out with its ranking of the states and their efforts to combat drunken driving. Minnesota didn't do so hot.

The organization said the state needs to pass laws to allow for sobriety checkpoints and require ignition interlocks for all convicted offenders with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or higher.

"An all-offender ignition interlock law and sobriety checkpoints will give law enforcement the tools needed to cut drunk driving fatalities," the organization said in giving the state 2 out of 5 stars.

MADD also gave two stars to Wisconsin  because the state can't force a driver suspected of a first drunken-driving offense to provide a blood sample. Wisconsin classifies a first offense as a traffic case, not a crime.

The group wants Wisconsin to expand its uses of devices that prevent an intoxicated driver from starting a car, such as an ignition-interlock device.

MADD also gave a 2 to Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. Only Montana and Rhode Island was rated lower.

States that earned the top scores of five include Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Missoui, Nebraska, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

In other traffic news:

Just six weeks into the new year and Minnesota has recorded 31 traffic fatalities. What's alarming to authorities is that in two-thirds of those cases, motorists were speeding or not wearing their seat belt.

Alcohol played a factor in four deaths, the Department of Public Safety said in its analysis of preliminary data from Jan 1 to Feb. 12.

Last year, 21 people had died during that same time period.

The uptick in crashes has authorities reminding drivers to slow down and buckle up.

"It's up to every person who gets behind the wheel to make a smart choice about how they drive," said Donna Berger, director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety. "Stop this trend by always buckling up, driving at safe speeds, never driving impaired and paying attention."

In total 385 people died in crashes from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. In 2012, 395 people died on state roads and 29,314 people were injured.

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