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DPS: 131 people died in 2010 drunken driving crashes

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety has released 2010 figures showing that the number of alcohol-related crash deaths in Minnesota was the lowest on record. Last year, 131 motorists were killed in alcohol related crashes -- a 21 percent drop from the 166 deaths five years ago in 2006.

To-date in 2011, there have been 212 traffic deaths, compared to 265 at this time in 2010.

According to the 2010 Motor Vehicle Impaired Driving Facts information there were 3,743 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 131 deaths and 2,485 injuries. A total of 101 (77 percent) of the 131 alcohol-related deaths occurred outside the Twin Cities' metro area. Greater Minnesota accounted for 305 total traffic deaths, of which 33 percent were alcohol-related.

Jean Ryan, impaired driving coordinator at DPS, cites safe driver decisions and enhanced enforcement and education campaigns as factors for the trend of fewer alcohol-related deaths. Ryan says high-visibility enforcement programs coupled with educational outreach make Minnesotans aware of increased enforcement and encourage use of safe alternatives to avoid driving impaired.

"Despite progress, it remains a source of frustration that this illegal and preventable driving behavior continues to haunt our highways," Ryan says. "There's no excuse for impaired driving. Unfortunately, many Minnesotans continue to find an excuse."

The fatal alcohol-related crash figures are found in the DPS Office of Traffic Safety Minnesota Motor Vehicle Impaired Driving Facts 2010 report. Today's release of the report coincides with a statewide and nationwide enhanced DWI crackdown that ran through Labor Day.

While DPS cites progress of fewer alcohol-related deaths in recent years, such fatalities accounted for 32 percent of 411 total traffic deaths in 2010, matching historical trends.

In Minnesota during 2006-2010, 791 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes -- an average of 170 deaths annually. During this same period 178,887 motorists were arrested for DWI. There were 166 deaths in 2006; 190 in 2007; 163 in 2008; 141 in 2009; and 131 in 2010.

In 2010, 29,918 motorists were arrested for DWI, translating to 82 DWI arrests a day. There were 32,756 arrests in 2009; 35,736 in 2008; 38,635 in 2007; and 41,842 in 2006. The Twin Cities' metro area and the 80-county Greater Minnesota each accounted for about one-half of all 2010 DWI arrests.

One in seven current Minnesota drivers (556,162) has a DWI on record, and one in 17 has two or more DWIs.

A total of 41 percent of those who incur one violation will incur a second within 15 years of their first arrest.

Males accounted for 73 percent of all DWIs and motorists from ages 20 to 29 represented 42 percent of DWI arrests. One in 14 of the arrests were motorists under age 21.