On Aug. 1, a Minnesota law took effect that makes a DWI offense an automatic felony for someone with a previous felony DWI conviction, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Some of these offenders are so chemically dependent that the only realistic way to stop them from driving is to cut off their hands and feet,” says Jon Cummings, co-founder of Minnesotans for Safer Driving and the father of a young man killed by a drunken driver.
The Minnesota Criminal Justice System DWI Task Force. The task force – a coalition of judges, cops, traffic safety advocates, and others – found about 500,000 state residents have at least one DWI offense. That means one out of 10 Minnesotans has a DWI bust. Of the 170,227 people arrested for drunken driving from 2001 through last year, 101,134 of them were first-time offenders. And first-timers, on average, account for 65 percent of the yearly alcohol-related traffic fatalities. The task force’s Steve Simon says locking up multiple offenders would at least quadruple the state prison population within a few years, cost state taxpayers billions of dollars more, and save about 10 lives annually in the process. “We can’t slap these people on the wrist anymore,” Cummings says. “You got to change the culture. Quit teaching our kids that this is how we celebrate – we drink and get into the car. This is incredibly irresponsible and we risk literally everything – including lives – for nothing.”