Minnesota State Patrol celebrates quiet New Year's Eve on roads - KMSP-TV

Minnesota State Patrol celebrates quiet New Year's Eve on roads

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This New Year marked the fifth consecutive year without a fatal drunken driving crash on any U.S., state, or interstate highways in Minnesota.

The number of drunk driving deaths has dropped in recent years, but some say focusing on relatively low number of arrests on a holiday could offer a false positive.

Jon Cummings, of Minnesotans for Safe Driving, said he was thankful to hear Minnesota has not seen an alcohol-related crash on New Year's Eve for half of a decade.

"That should be every night," he said.

Yet, memories of the most recent drunk driving victim in 2008 are still fresh for him. Margaret Lopez was riding along with her husband -- a Ramsey County deputy -- when a drunk driver slammed into them.

"No one is immune to this," Cummings warned. "Everyone out there -- you are just as big a target as anyone else."

That's why Cummings stops short of celebrating the five-year milestone with the Minnesota State Patrol. Despite another year of holiday campaigns and warnings, the number of arrests hasn't changed much. Last year, 20 people were arrested on drunken driving charges. This year, 25 were taken off the road between Monday at 6 p.m. and Tuesday at 8 a.m.

While Lt. Eric Roeske, of the Minnesota State Patrol says the relatively low numbers are encouraging for troopers, and both he and Cummings believe partiers are planning ahead on high-risk holidays.

"New Year's Eve seems to have evolved a bit," Roeske explained. "A lot of people stay home and have neighborhood get-togethers. Our hope is that those who did go out made arrangements for a safe ride home."

Yet, the other 364 days of the year still concern Cummings. His late son is a constant reminder.

"It was a Tuesday night -- nothing special," he remembered. "Guy comes out of nowhere and boom! A whole bunch of lives change in a blink of an eye."

There was one death on the roads near Deer River; however, that took place at about 4 p.m. and alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in that crash.


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