Police arrested more than 400 motorists for drunken driving over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
Officials suspected the number of arrests in the two-day St. Patrick’s period would rise for the sixth straight year, with revelers starting to celebrate Saturday and continuing into the holiday on Sunday. There was one reported weekend fatality of a 54-year-old Kittson County man, but there were no obvious signs of impaired driving, said Nathan Bowie, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
He said the tally of 400 arrests is preliminary, as some city and county police agencies may not have reported as of Monday morning. In recent years, the state has had roughly 30,000 drunken driving arrests annually, about half in the seven-county metro area, Bowie said.
Arrests over the two-day holiday period have risen from 165 arrests on March 17, 2008, a Monday, increasing each year as the holiday fell closer and closer to the weekend. Bowie said the state typically has about 300 DWI arrests on non-holiday weekends, most on Friday and Saturday nights.
“The good news is that many were stopped and arrested before they could cause injury or death to themselves or others,” Bowie said. “But having 300 arrests on a typical weekend is a reminder to plan ahead for a sober ride home.”
DWI arrest totals vary based on increased enforcement levels — 197 officers worked on enforcement details this weekend — publicity about stepped up enforcement, weather and other factors. This year having the holiday on a weekend was an important factor, Bowie said. He said he suspects the arrest tally will drop back next year when St. Patrick’s Day is on a Monday.
In the last five years, 651 people were killed in drunken driving crashes, accounting for about one-third of the state’s traffic deaths.