Police Say Drunk Driving Down in Duluth

Posted at: 08/23/2013 5:27 PM | Updated at: 08/23/2013 6:25 PM
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Motorists in Duluth are thinking twice about driving drunk according to a report released by Duluth Police.

In 2010, St. Louis County was ranked the second most dangerous county for impaired driving in Minnesota. Drunk driving can be a deadly crime so Lieutenant Leigh Wright of the Duluth Police Department set out to make the community safer.

“What would be the number of deaths you would like to see in your family? Well, everybody's going to say zero, and so that's what we want to say too for the community,” Wright said.

To accomplish that police caught the eye of drivers by using digital road signs and high visibility enforcement over the last two years.

“What that means is that you have at least three to four squad cars working together, sometimes it could be up to 10, in a very specific area,” Wright said.

She said it has been working. Between 2009 and 2012 the department increased annual traffic stops by 26 percent. Over the same period DUI arrests went down 38 percent from 441 arrests in 2009 to 273 arrests last year.

Wright said that shows drivers are changing their behavior.

“So we're running into a lot of designated drivers, which is very cool for our community. I'm not saying that we've cured it. We still have driers out there that are impaired and driving,” Lt. Wright said.

The work may not be done, but Wright said working with the State Patrol and St. Louis County Sheriff's Department helped spread the change across the region.

“We really are doing a good job up here, and I just sent a message out to our team. You know it is a team effort,” Wright said.

She was proud of the success, but said drivers will still see strong enforcement moving forward.

“The goal is 'Toward Zero Deaths' so I'd like to see zero fatalities for DUIs, and I think it's reachable,” Wright said.

The Lake Superior Traffic Enforcement Team was getting $67,000 in state grant money two years ago, but Wright said these improvements mean the team will receive $285,000 next year.

The Minnesota State Patrol is currently increasing DWI enforcement through Labor Day.

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