Beltrami County among most dangerous for drunk driving
By Crystal Dey / Bemidji Pioneer
BEMIDJI -- Before lifting that cup of cheer to toast the New Year, designate a sober driver. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety office has been jacking up DWI enforcement efforts and racking up arrests since Thanksgiving. The extra patrols are part of a monthlong Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign to deter drunk driving.
As of Monday, 20 of the 116 listed inmates in the Beltrami County Jail were facing DWI charges. The majority of DWI arrests in the county since the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign began has been men between the ages of 22 and 30.
Statewide, an estimated 1,005 people have been arrested for DWI since Nov. 27. In 2012, 28,418 people were arrested for DWI with an average alcohol concentration of 0.154, according to the Department of Public Safety.
Beltrami, neighboring Cass and Itasca counties ranked among the top 25 most dangerous drunk driving counties in Minnesota. Hubbard County just missed the list, coming in at 26 with three alcohol-related deaths between 2010 and 2012. Beltrami and Itasca counties each had six and Cass County had four deaths. The statewide total in that time is 335, with 104 in 2012 alone.
The Department of Public Safety reported extra DWI patrols will continue periodically through September of next year specifically in the top 25 counties. Sixty percent of the state's drunk driving deaths and 71 percent of the state's alcohol related serious injuries during 2010 through 2012 occurred in the monitored counties.
People convicted of DWI offenses can lose their license for a year, spend thousands of dollars in fines and face jail time. Repeat offenders and first-time offenders with an alcohol concentration level above 0.16 will be subject to use ignition interlock systems to regain legal driving privileges. Refusal to obey the law can result in a permanent loss of a drivers license.
The Department of Public Safety suggests the following tips to prevent drunk driving: plan for a sober ride, offer to be a designated driver, always wear your seatbelt as a defense against drunk drivers and report suspected drunk driving to your local law enforcement agency. The Bemidji Police Department and Beltrami County Sheriff's Office can be reached at (218) 333-9111.
Bemidji has two taxi services: Bemidji Cab, (218) 759-1368 and 1st City Taxi, (218) 444-TAXI. Both companies have extended hours on the weekends to accommodate the bar crowd. Bemidji Cab runs until about 3 a.m and 1st City wraps up at about 2:30 a.m.
Minnesota's Top 25 Dangerous Drunk Driving Counties
County: Alcohol Related Deaths
Otter Tail: 13
St. Louis: 11
Crow Wing: 10
Mille Lacs: 8
Blue Earth: 4