Do holiday DWI checks really make a difference?

During the recent holiday season, more than 2,200 DWI arrests were made in Minnesota, and 101 were made in the Minnesota State Patrol's Rochester District or by Rochester police officers.

Minnesota State Patrol trooper car

Dear Answer Man: It seems like every holiday season we see those electronic highway signs telling us there is added DWI enforcement. Does law enforcement really make more arrests during the holidays? — Sober Driver.

Dear Sober: Between holiday parties and some folks' saucy eggnog recipes, it's a wonder more people aren't run over during the holiday season, and not just by the errant reindeer. And yes, whether the holiday in question is the recent stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve, or a long Fourth of July weekend, it's common to see law enforcement making an extra effort to keep our roads sober and safe.

The last big DWI enforcement period ran from Nov. 23, 2022 — the Wednesday before Thanksgiving — to Dec. 31, 2022, New Year's Eve. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, troopers, deputies and police officers statewide made 2,228 DWI arrests during that time. This total compares to 2,012 DWI arrests during the 2021 campaign.

Mike Hanson, director of the DPS Office of Traffic Safety, says, “When a person is impaired, smart decisions aren’t going to happen. Law enforcement saw that repeatedly during the holiday DWI campaign. One bad decision can put so many people at risk. Thankfully, law enforcement stopped those decisions from further endangering lives."

Closer to home, the Minnesota State Patrol's Rochester District saw 70 DWI arrests and another 31 from Rochester police officers. That's 101 drinkers taken off the road.


Among those arrested was person from Dodge County who, when apprehended, registered a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.38%. Another driver from the Rochester District had a BAC of 0.31%. Drivers are considered intoxicated at 0.08% or above. So, those drivers were tipping the breathalyzer at four or nearly five times the legal limit.

According to the Cleveland Clinic's website , those levels are more than just a danger behind the wheel. At the limit of 0.08% an individual may have reduced muscle coordination, find it more difficult to detect danger and have impaired judgment and reasoning. At 0.15%, and individual may experience an altered mood, nausea and vomiting and loss of balance and some muscle control. And in the range where those two above examples were taken off the road — between 0.30% and 0.40% — an individual likely has alcohol poisoning, a potentially life-threatening condition, and could experience loss of consciousness.

Above 0.40%, you're looking at a potentially fatal blood alcohol level that could cause a coma or death from respiratory arrest.

How many drinks it takes to get even to 0.08% depends on several factors. According to , alcohol processing in the body is affected by the sex of the drinker, the amount of lean body mass, the type of drink consumed, the weight of the drinker and more. With one "drink" being a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor, in general terms a person who weighs 100 pounds will be over the limit with two drinks in an hour, while someone who weighs 240 pounds is fast approaching (or at) the limit with three drinks in an hour.

That means the person with the 0.38 BAC from Dodge County was drinking the spirits of Christmas past, present and future to get that drunk before getting behind the wheel.

Dave Boxum, a public information officer with the DPS, noted that similar time periods resulted in similar arrest results. For example, the non-holiday Jan. 30 to March 5, 2022, time frame saw 69 DWI arrests in the Minnesota State Patrol's Rochester District and 22 RPD arrests. That's a total of 91.

Similarly, the Sept. 25 to Oct. 31, 2022, time frame saw 64 state patrol arrests in the Rochester District and 28 RPD arrests, totaling 92.

Hanson says one poor decision can lead to a split-second driving mistake that ends in a tragedy you'll have to live with the rest of your life.


“If you’re social drinking, it can be easy to not realize how alcohol is affecting your ability to drive safely. No person intends to hurt others by getting behind the wheel when they’re impaired, but good intentions aren’t going to keep anyone safe," Hanson says. "Always plan a sober ride and that pain and guilt and so many other consequences will not happen.”

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