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Alcohol DWI’s drop, controlled substances rise

By Troy Christianson

Ask a Trooper

Question: I heard DWI arrests are declining, is this true? What about non-alcohol related DWI arrests?

Answer: While alcohol-related DWI incidents have dropped over the past 10 years in Minnesota, controlled substance-related DWI incidents have increased over the past 30 years.

Controlled Substance Convictions:

•1990: 5 controlled substance-related DWIs

•1997: 128

•2007: 659

•2017: 1,982

We believe that most drivers know how to get a sober ride when they have consumed too many alcoholic beverages. Illicit and some prescription medications can also affect our ability to safely operate a vehicle, even if taken as directed. The term “controlled substances” refers to both of these categories, and part of the rise of drug-related DWIs is due to increased use.

Another factor for the increase in controlled substance arrests are that law enforcement officers are better trained in DWI detection especially with non-alcohol related DWI offenders.

Minnesota currently has 277 specially trained officers called Drug Recognition Evaluators (DREs).  Non-certified DRE officers can and do call for the assistance from a DRE officer to assist with a DWI, if needed.

Tips for motorists that are currently taking prescription medications:

•If you don’t know how a medication will affect your judgment, coordination and reaction time, have someone else drive or wait to take it until you get home.

•Check the warning labels carefully. Does it have one about “operating heavy machinery?” That includes motor vehicles.

•Some medications are fine when taken on their own, but may cause impairment when mixed with other medications or alcohol – even a small amount. Learn about the interactions and talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848.  (Or reach him at,

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