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Impaired Driving Awareness Month

To the editor:

December is National Impaired Driving Awareness Month. The Nicollet County Attorney’s Office wants to remind all drivers about the dangers of impaired driving. Impaired driving — whether an individual is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other substances — is illegal. It does not matter the label: high, buzzed, stoned, wasted, or drunk. If you feel any one of these things, you are impaired.

One of the misconceptions we often hear is that only a few drinks will not cause any harm. While everyone metabolizes alcohol differently, having only a couple of drinks can alter your vision, reaction time, ability to track a moving object, and the ability to multi-task. With each additional drink an individual has, their ability to perform these tasks declines. Drugs can have a similar impact on driving abilities. Marijuana slows a driver’s reaction time, impairs cognitive performance, and makes it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane.

The losses caused by impaired driving are significant. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk-driving crashes killed 10,511 people in the United States in 2018. That averages out to one death every 50 minutes due to drunk drivers. The loss caused by an impaired driving crash has not only a profound and irreversible impact on the family of the person injured or killed, but also on the life of the driver and the driver’s family. Impaired driving is 100% preventable.

Another misconception relates to the costs associated with an impaired driving conviction. A Driving While Impaired (DWI) conviction alone can cost over $10,000 in attorney’s fees, fines and court costs, chemical dependency assessments, lost time from work, increased insurance rates, and towing fees. An individual will also face the loss of their driver’s license, possible jail time, and possible employment consequences.

Traditionally, more drivers are on the roads during the holiday season. While we recognize holiday celebrations will look differently this year, it is still important to remember safe driving habits not only during this holiday season, but throughout the entire year. If you plan to drink, please plan to not drive home afterwards. Designate a sober driver before heading ouat for the evening, or call a taxi or other ride-share service to take you to and from your holiday festivities.

From December 18, 2020, to January 1, 2021, Minnesota law enforcement agencies will have extra patrols focusing on impaired driving enforcement. Why the focus during this time period? During December of 2018 alone, 839 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes, with 285 of those fatalities occurring during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday periods. Please do not become a statistic. If you suspect a friend or family member is impaired, do not let them get behind the wheel. If you suspect another driver is impaired on the roadways, call 911. If you are the designated driver, make sure you keep that promise of safety to yourself and to your passengers. Support other designated drivers too. Your family, friends, other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the street are counting on you.

Please stay safe this Holiday Season.

Michelle Zehnder Fischer

 Nicollet County Attorney

Bonnie Petersen,

Nicollet County Victim/Witness Coordinator

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