Havana Bodell was paralyzed last year in a crash with a drunk driver. Photo: Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Drunk drivers can be found anytime anywhere, but they are most likely to be caught in August. Over the past five years,on average, police have made more than 2,509 DWI arrests in August, the most of any month between 2011 and 2015, That was followed by March (2,399) and July (2,354). according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. In total, authorities cited 134,607 motorists for driving under the influence, an average of 26,921 a year over the five year period.

 
From now through Sept. 5, the end of Labor Day Weekend, officers from more than 300 departments across the state will be on the look out for inebriated drivers as part of an enforcement campaign.

“Nothing beats hanging out with friends and family during a Minnesota summer, but it’s a problem when we think we’re okay to drive after having a few drinks,” said Donna Berger, the Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety director. “Celebrate over Labor Day weekend but have a plan for yourself and others before anybody gets behind the wheel. Friends don’t let friends drink and drive.”

On average, drunk driving will be a contributing factor in one fatality, and alcohol will be involved in two life-changing injuries during the Labor Day holiday period,the DPS said.

Erica Bodell knows first hand the consequences of a crash involving a drunk driver. The Cambridge woman was on the road with her three children when she was hit by a drunk driver at 3:30 p.m. in November 2015 in Isanti County. The crash  left her 3-year-old daughter, Havana, paralyzed. The other family members suffered broken legs, a fractured skull and nerve damage. 

“I am very fortunate to be alive and that my three children are alive,” Bodell said during a news conference at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul. “I could have easily died last November, and I could have lost my family. I’m thankful we’re alive, but I’m also sad, angry and frustrated that a drunk driver changed our lives forever. Please don’t make a bad decision to get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking.”

The good news is that fewer drivers are making the decision to not drive drunk. Still, more than 27,000 Minnesotans are arrested for DWI annually. That's down from more than 42,000 a decade ago.

 
Even as the number of arrests has dropped by 40 percent since 2006, one in four deaths on state roads are drunk driving-related, the DPS says. Over the past five years, there were 462 drunk driving-related traffic deaths in Minnesota, with 95 people killed in 2015 alone. Another 253 people experienced life-changing injuries.

“These are sad, tragic and preventable deaths,” said Capt. Jeremy Geiger of the Minnesota State Patrol.  “And the fact is, if you’re driving drunk, it’s much better news if you’re stopped and arrested for DWI than causing a preventable tragedy."

It is a crime in Minnesota to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher. It also is illegal to drive when under the influence, even if the blood alcohol content is below .08 percent. The difference is that law enforcement does not have to show impairment when the charge is .08, only that was the alcohol concentration.

A DWI offense can result in 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.

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