A woman from Stewartville, Minn. nearly sideswiped the side of a bridge, then veered across the centerline into the right lane and cut off another motorist.
It was the seventh time in the past decade that Elizabeth Jean Smith, 29, had been arrested for drunken driving. She was among the 2,502 motorists who were cited by state law enforcement during a DWI enforcement between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
While impaired driving incidents have been trending down for nearly a decade, they remain a significant concern on state roads, accounting for more than 25,000 citations in 2014, the most recent year available.
Smith, who had a blood alcohol content of .18 when she was stopped on Dec. 10 in Rochester, was not the most inebriated driver arrested during the six-week statewide sweep. Minnetonka police arrested a driver with a .40 BAC, more than five times the legal limit of .08 percent. Drivers caught in Bloomington, Bemidji, Plymouth, Virginia and St. Francis had BACs higher than .33 percent, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
In Carver County, a deputy arrested two people who were in the same vehicle. A male driver became sick and stopped in the middle of the street. His female passenger then took the wheel and drove to the side of the road. The man blew a .33 percent BAC and the woman a .11 percent.
“Unfortunately, these examples of DWI arrests are all too common,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “If you choose to drink, you have the responsibility to find a sober ride home. When you drive drunk, you are not only harming yourself, you are putting other lives at risk.”
Smith’s latest arrest follows three others in Minnesota and three in Wisconsin dating to 2007, according to a criminal complaint. She was charged with a felony first-degree DWI and is being held in the Olmsted County Jail.
About 300 agencies participated in the annual crackdown. The Minnesota State Patrol’s two metro districts made the most arrests, accounting for 345 arrests. St. Paul police reported 74 arrests while Minneapolis had 59 and Bloomington 39, according to state officials.
In Greater Minnesota, the State Patrol’s Rochester district led the way with 62 arrests, followed by the St. Cloud district with 34. The Mankato Department of Public Safety reported 39, the St. Cloud Police Department 37, and the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office 34.