Minnesota, once a libertarian laggard when it came to cracking down on drunken driving, now stands among the national leaders in reducing alcohol-related mayhem on the roads.
The Gopher State posted the fifth-best drop in alcohol-related traffic deaths among the states last year, 23 percent, according to new figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also recorded the fourth-lowest rate of drunken driving fatalities as a percentage of total miles driven.
In simpler terms, 38 fewer people died in Minnesota last year because of someone’s decision to drive while intoxicated. And the 2008 death toll of 135 is less than half the 1984 total of 305. Advocacy by Mothers Against Drunk Driving that led to tighter laws and tougher enforcement is due much of the credit. But Minnesota, in thrall to an on-sale liquor industry whose business model relies on people drinking and driving, was the last state in the union to trim its legal threshold for intoxication to 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content.
As the Christmas party season progresses, revelers should note where the dangers of drunken driving lie. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s 2008 Crash Facts, more than 80 percent of drunken driving fatalities in our state stemmed from vehicle overturns or collisions with other vehicles or fixed objects. The most likely victims? Men in their 20s.