MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) -
According to the Office of Traffic Safety, one out of every seven licensed drivers in Minnesota has at least one DWI.
To address this ongoing issue the Office of Traffic Safety has offered a grant to support full time officers dedicated to DWI enforcement.
To get the highest impact, the top twenty-five counties with the most impaired-related deaths and serious injuries were chosen as eligible for grant funds.
Since October, two deputies with Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office, have split time on the road, cracking down on drunk driving.
After receiving the year-long grant, the Sheriff’s Office set a goal to catch 60 DWIs by September. Deputy Arkell handled the enforcement for the first six months and took 45 drunk drivers off the road.
“When I was stopping vehicles, I was making contact with passengers that said they had heard about the grant and that they actually weren’t driving specifically because they heard about the grant, the fact that we had it push people to not even drive after drinking," Blue Earth County Sheriff Deputy Chris Arkell said.
Deputy Suckow began his enforcement in April.
This Memorial Day weekend, he surpassed their goal, apprehending 62 DWIs.
Combined, the officers have worked over 1,300 hours, resulting in a total of 1,404 traffic stops, 222 citations, and 107 arrests for all offenses in just eight months.
“Every day we’re going out, being visible, showing people that we’re out being proactive, stopping people for even small driving infractions. The main goal, the number one goal is to get toward zero,” Blue Earth County Sheriff Deputy Adam Suckow said.
Toward Zero Deaths, which this grant is a part of.
In 2017, 72 people died in crashes involving drunk drivers across Minnesota.
“Unfortunately we have not gotten to zero, we’re not even close," Dep. Suckow added. “It makes you angry just for that fact that there’s that many people out there willing to put people’s lives at risk.”
“I mean there’s really no reason to be drinking and driving right now. Especially when you have Ubers and Lyfts, taxis constantly. Especially in Mankato,” Dep. Suckow said.
They can’t stop all drunk drivers so they’re hopeful their presence will help.
“Start seeing an officer on the road or start seeing cars stopped on the road, you slow down and in your head you’re thinking, ok, maybe I shouldn’t be doing that, so it’s the same thing as okay we’re seeing people on the road, cars are constantly stopped, obviously it’s not safe to be drinking and driving so hopefully it kind of sinks in and just says hey, don’t be stupid I’m just gonna get a ride home," Dep. Suckow added.
“We used to be one of the ranking counties for fatalities when it comes to alcohol related crashes. So to see that we’ve now gotten out of that list of top counties in Minnesota that are affected by alcohol involved fatal crashes, is great to see,” Dep. Arkell said.
While the DWI officer’s shift is dedicated to stopping drunk drivers they still have to take calls if need be.
“There’s always more you can do and we’re doing as much as we can in our department. Obviously we’re trying to get out there and do something about this problem that we have but there’s only so much we can do, because there’s just too many people drinking and driving.”
The county will reapply for the grant when it expires at the end of September, in continuing their effort to get to zero.