Why More DWI Tragedies in Rural MN?


Posted by Cloey | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 22-08-2012

I try to be light-hearted on this blog.  There’s enough doom and gloom to be found on the national news each night or in the newspaper.  But I have to make an exception today because I am really angry about the following-How many innocent lives have to be extinguished before people stop drinking and driving?  I’m starting to think that Minnesota has it’s head in the sand.  New Yorkers are no better in making sober choices, believe me,  but penalties were made harsher in order to get people to think twice.  

It feels like every time I turn on the news or read the West Central Tribune, people are dying because of drunk drivers.  Just this past weekend, a woman, her mother in law and her young daughter were hit head on by a young man who was found under the influence and with empty liquor bottles in his car.   Three weeks ago a 5 month old child was killed after a man drove so drunk that he couldn’t even walk.  He had a cooler in his car and was downing beers as he was driving.  It was his 3rd offense.  I have to ask, was it worth it?

Sometimes I feel that we are so afraid of impinging on the rights of criminals that we lessen the value of  the victims robbed of the most important right of all-the right to live.  It’s not just on the highways.  As I clean the litter on the outer peripheries of our property,  I find countless beer bottles,  beer boxes, empty wine and liquor bottles and cigarette boxes.  People are literally driving around drinking and throwing their debris out the windows as if world is their trash can.  Doesn’t do much for feelings of security in our quiet farm knowing that there are characters out there who are roaming our streets swirling a beer and wondering what would be more fun tonight.   It has to be that the penalties are not harsh enough.  A man in Willmar, MN was arrested for his 9th DWI recently.  Seriously? Why was he even driving?!

I realize that rural areas lack public transportation.  I realize that people want to socialize and enjoy themselves but too many of us look the other way or are afraid to speak up when someone we know or love drinks and drives.  Several months ago the farmer and I visited a local Legion on a Saturday night.  It was 7:30 p.m., pretty early in the evening if you ask me yet there were several people completely bombed. Not for me to judge.  And these were middle-aged ladies, not the younger crowd you’d expect.   One particular woman was way unsteady on her feet and slurring her words. Clearly drunk.  I watched her say goodbye to her crowd of friends with the car keys in her hand and start heading for the door.  No one said a thing until I stood up and “encouraged” them to find her another way home.  They looked at me as if I was over-reacting but knew better than to ignore me.  Really?

So why aren’t DWI laws stricter in MN?  Is it too expensive to enforce?  Are lawmakers unwilling to create legal consequences that could affect too large a population?  Is it because municipal liquor stores are a thriving and economically advantageous entity regardless of what I would think would be a serious conflict of interest?  I’m sure that there are many reasons and no one simple answer.  Yes, people will always make bad choices,  think only of themselves and fail to consider how their consequences affect others.  But I truly believe that people drink and drive because others see it and don’t say anything and/or  they roll the dice with the law expecting they can survive what inconvenience a fine would cost them.  People also don’t realize how intoxicated they are when others clearly can.  

Listen,  I can’t imagine that there could be a worse consequence than knowing that you drove drunk and took a life.  Most people don’t think it will ever happen to them or someone they love.  There’s two people sitting in county jails right now that can tell us different.  What will be their penalty?  Sadly, if history is an indicator of the future, not nearly enough. 

I’d love your opinion on this issue.  It’s time to take our heads out of the sand.


Comments (6)

Yep … the penalty is not harsh enough. I have a DWI )o: not an award I post on the wall or wear with honor upon my chest. Sadly I dealt with life in the worst possible way when I was young ….. THANKFUL the Lord watched over me, my passengers and everyone else on the roads the same time as me. God is good …… and the fear of what HE would do to me was enough to sober me up and set me straight!! THAT and having to lie to my nephew when I would call him from jail. When his mother let him know the truth, it crushed me when he realized I’d lied.
The motivation to get sober and on a straight path is going to be different for everyone. I TOTALLY agree that the laws need to be harsh ~ that would be a good kick in the pants most need to start AND it would be scary enough to keep others from attempting to drive drunk!
*I also know it is hard to talk up when it is your loved ones hopping into their vehicle driving off ~~ especially when you’ve been a drunk driver yourself. So many times I would go back and forth blaming my friends for not taking my keys the night I got my DWI. Now I just thank God for keeping everyone safe and for helping me out of an awful pit I couldn’t get myself out of. ***Don’t be afraid to step in folks ~ the drunk will be mad at first BUT will thank you in the long run (o:
Very good blog today Farm Wife. This is a subject that has been on my mind for awhile ….. Thank you for being brave enough to put it out there ……

I appreciate your response and I don’t know how brave I am, but I think it’s brave and wonderful that you could offer your first-hand experience. I’m so glad that you found what you needed to make a change. I think the only way that laws change is to speak up and say what is right. Thank you much for reading….

Way to go Cloey. Not sure if you remember that my brother was killed by a drunk driver during the last semester of school at New Paltz. The devastation is nothing that can be described. I wish someone had stopped the offender at the time, but it is very hard to do so. This is why I do what I do. For all the progress people like to talk about, there are still 10 – 11,000 people dying every year.

Dave, I didn’t know about your brother until several years after we graduated. How horrible. No family should have to go through that and wouldn’t if people would stop behaving so selfishly.

Hi Cloey, Thank you for your powerful comment on drinking and driving. Your suggestion about greater penalties is a good one. Although I don’t work for and am not affiliated with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, I admire the work that they do in reducing drunk driving. I think one of their efforts in dealing with drunken drivers is a great idea. Here is more information about it. All we have to do as MN citizens is contact our state legislators and tell them it is time to get this law in place. Here is more information about it: http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/ignition-interlocks/

Thank you so much for reading and responding! I am very familiar with MADD and have been lucky enough to attend several impact panel presentations and other events. I agree that the use of interlock is a very valuable tool and can deter drunk driving in repeat offenders. Unfortunately, drivers can gain access to other people’s vehicles that do not have interlock or, not register cars for interlock. Still, very effective!