Northland DWI arrests soar to highest level in decades

Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 9:03 PM CDT
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HERMANTOWN, MN. (KBJR) - It seems the Northland has a growing problem when it comes to people getting behind the wheel drunk.

Hermantown Police Chief Jim Crace said his officers are on track to make triple the average number of DWI (driving while intoxicated) arrests in 2022.

“You don’t have to look very far to see tragic outcomes of people drinking and driving,” said Crace.

In the past two weeks alone, a Superior police officer is accused of taking two lives while driving drunk.

This past friday, The State Patrol reports a man driving intoxicated on I-35 also caused a deadly crash.

Crace said he’s not exactly sure why the number of people drinking and driving is climbing so quickly.

“There’s just no reason for it in today’s day and age when we know the impacts,” he said. “We know how serious it is. It’s easier and easier every year to avoid it.”

He said his officers typically arrest around 35 people each year for driving under the influence.

That number spiked to 67 in 2021.

Now, just 7 months into 2022, the number is already at 61.

“We’re looking at tripling our numbers from 2020 and doubling our numbers from 2019,” Crace said.

Crace said the average blood alcohol concentration of those arrested in 2022 is .16%, double the legal limit of .08%.

Statewide, the trend isn’t quite as jarring.

However, Director of Minnesota Department of Traffic Safety, Mike Hanson, said the number is steadily climbing.

“Most alarmingly, we’re seeing a pretty significant increase in the number of drivers who are being arrested for drug-impaired driving,” said Hanson.

He said local police departments have increased DWI patrols now that they have gained staffing back after shortages caused by the pandemic.

But, he added, one of the greatest tools in preventing drunk driving is education.

“There’s not reason anybody in Minnesota should wind up in the back seat of a squad car, in the back of an ambulance, or the back of a hearse for that matter, because of an impaired driving decision they made,” said Hanson.

He said if you have to ask whether you should drive, always call an Uber, Lyft or taxi.

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