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National Impaired Driving Awareness month

To the editor:

December is National Impaired Driving Awareness Month. While we may immediately think of alcohol when hearing “impaired driving,” other substances, both legal and illegal, can impair our ability to drive. These substances can slow reaction time to both in typical driving situations and sudden emergencies, impair judgment, reduce the ability to process information, impact motor skills and affect concentration.

December is filled with holiday festivities, from work parties to gatherings with family and friends. Unfortunately, the number of impaired driving-related incidents increases along with these celebrations and the increased traveling. The cost of a Driving While Impaired (DWI) conviction can be great – upwards of $10,000 or more in attorney’s fees, fines, court costs, lost work opportunities, higher insurance rates, and other costs. A DWI conviction could also result in lost driving privileges, special vehicle license plates, or “whiskey plates,” having to use Ignition Interlock which requires a driver to blow into a device to start their car, the loss or forfeiture of the vehicle, and potential jail time. An impaired driver can serve time in jail when first arrested, and again after sentencing. If the driver is arrested on a weekend or holiday, the individual could spend the weekend and holiday in jail before being seen by a judge.

However, these DUI consequences do not match the catastrophic consequences from the loss of life or serious physical injuries caused by an impaired driving crash. Sadly, as the number of impaired driving incidents increase, so do the number of deaths from impaired driving-related crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 10,874 fatalities in 2017 from impaired driving crashes. Of that total, 885 deaths occurred in December alone. Lives are irrevocably changed and shattered by impaired driving crashes.

The consequences of impaired driving are 100% preventable. If you feel different, you drive different. Period. Please remember to plan ahead for any holiday gathering you are attending, either by having a designated driver arranged ahead of time or arranging for a cab or other ride service. If you see a suspected impaired driver on the road, call the local law enforcement agency or 911. If you have a friend or family member who is about to drive when they are impaired, take their keys away and arrange for a safe way to get them home. While they may be mad at you initially, they and their family will thank you later. We want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season.

Michelle Zehnder Fischer

Nicollet County Attorney

Bonnie Petersen

Victim/Witness Coordinator, Nicollet County

Attorney’s Office

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