88 people were killed in drunken driving crashes last year, report says

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New figures show that 88 people died in drunken driving-related incidents on Minnesota's roads last year.

The Department of Public Safety published 2014 figures that show 91 people were killed in "impaired-related" traffic accidents – that's any incident where a driver, pedestrian or bicyclist has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher.

All but three of the 91 involved drunken-driving crashes. (So for example, the three others may have been incidents in which a biker or pedestrian had a high blood alcohol level, but died after being involved in an accident with a sober driver.)

According to a news release, that number represents a 25 percent decrease from 2010, when there were 121 impaired-related fatalities. It's continued to trend downward during that time period.

There were 111 deaths in 2014 where any amount of alcohol detected (so including below that 0.08 mark). All told, 361 people died in traffic crashes in 2014.

In addition to impaired-related deaths being down, DWI arrests also dropped to 25,528 in 2014 – that's about 750 fewer arrests than the year before.

Officials say it continues a "steady drop" in DWIs since 2006, when more than 42,000 drivers were arrested. This means that over the course of nine years, alcohol-related arrests decreased by 40 percent.

Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director, called the decreases "encouraging," but noted that "for a family who’s suffering a horrible loss because of a drunk driver, it’s small comfort when more than 25,000 drunk drivers are still on the road, doing the exact same thing that killed their loved one.”

The number are detailed in the department's annual Minnesota Motor Vehicle Impaired Driving Facts report (click here to read it).

Why the lower numbers?

In addition to ramped-up DWI enforcement campaigns (such as the three-week effort that netted more than 1,500 arrests this summer), DPS says tougher laws on "high alcohol content" offenses – where the driver has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 or above – have put a dent in the number of arrests over the years.

Still, there are some problem areas. The five counties with the highest percentage of people with a DWI on record are: Mahnomen (23.1 percent), Mille Lacs (17.2 percent), Cass (16.1 percent), Clearwater (15.9 percent), and Aitkin (15.7 percent).

The Department of Public Safety says 11.1 percent of Minnesota's population has a DWI on record – that's one out of every seven drivers.

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