Thanksgiving officially ushers in the holiday season in the Northland and while everyone should make it a point to celebrate with friends and family, everyone should plan ahead if drinking alcohol is involved.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, over the past five years (2018-2022), more than 120,000 people have been arrested for DWI, which is potentially very dangerous for everyone on the road and costly for those placed under arrest.

They note that each DWI risks the loss of a license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in fines, and possible jail time. Repeat offenders, as well as first-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above blood alcohol concentration, must use an ignition interlock device to regain their driving privileges.

Even worse than those consequences are the life-changing tragedies that can occur when driving while impaired, whether it's by alcohol or other substances. From 2017-2021, 49 people died in drunk driving-related crashes between the day before Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. While that is a sobering number, it's important to remember that survivors are often left with chronic pain, medical bills, and other problems that often follow them for years.

In an attempt to protect the public from those who choose to drive while impaired, law enforcement agencies throughout Minnesota remind everyone that they will have extra enforcement on roadways throughout the holiday season as part of the Towards Zero Deaths campaign.

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Remember, this doesn't just include drinking and driving. Recreational marijuana became legal this year in Minnesota and authorities want to remind drivers the following cannabis laws apply:

  • Drivers or passengers cannot open any cannabis packaging, use marijuana, or consume other cannabis products in a vehicle.
  • Drivers or passengers are not allowed to have an unsealed or open container of marijuana (for example, 2 ounces in a zip-close bag). Just like with alcohol, the only exception is an unsealed container or other opened products if they are kept in the trunk of a car or another area not accessible by the driver or passengers.
  • The driver cannot be impaired by marijuana or other cannabis products. Driving high is a DWI.
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The safest thing to do during the holiday season, and at all times of the year, is to make a plan before going out, designate a sober driver, and don’t drink and drive. Even if you don't plan on becoming impaired in any way, remember that the best defense against those who are on the roads impaired is to buckle up.

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