To the Editor:

In Minnesota the months of October and November tend to be the transition months between fall and winter but in 2020 many things are different as proven by the most recent weather. Even in such an unusual year the average alcohol related incidents have remained about the same as past years in Wright County.

This month Safe Communities of Wright County would like to highlight the topic of alcohol consumption and impaired driving. According to statistics from the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2018 10,511 lives were lost to crashes involving impaired driving, many of those being from alcohol.  What does alcohol in your system do to your ability to drive? Alcohol is a substance that reduces the function of the brain, impairing thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination. All these abilities are essential to operating a vehicle safely.

As alcohol levels rise in a person’s system, the negative effects on the central nervous system increase.   Alcohol level is measured by the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood. This is called Blood Alcohol Concentration, in Minnesota a BAC of .08 is the level considered to be legally intoxicated.  As a person’s BAC increases with each drink the impairment intensifies which results in an increase on the risk of a crash when operating a motor vehicle. According to NHTSA the average person may experience the following effects on your body and effects on driving at the different BAC levels:

.02 — Some loss of judgment; relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood. Decline in visual functions, decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time

.05 — Exaggerated behavior, may have loss of small-muscle control, impaired judgment, usually good feeling, lowered alertness, release of inhibition. Reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, reduced response to emergency driving situations

.08 — Muscle coordination becomes poor, harder to detect danger. Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability, impaired perception.

.10 — Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking. Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately.

.15 — Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur, major loss of balance. Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing.

A DUI arrest also has many consequences that many people are not aware of.  It has effects not only for criminal charges/criminal record but on your driver’s license, insurance coverage and cost, fines and court fees, possible jail time, probation, effects on family, friends, and the community.  

At Safe Communities our Mission Statement is to “Reduce injuries and fatalities associated with traffic crashes in Wright County, Minnesota through safety education and prevention.”  

In the month of November, law enforcement will be participating in the Towards Zero Death campaign concentrating on impaired driving and seatbelt safety. Working in partnership with you on awareness and education we can significantly reduce and prevent alcohol related incidents in Wright County. Be safe and choose to drive sober.

Lieutenant Eric Kunkel

Wright County Sheriff’s Office

Member of Safe Communities of Wright County

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