Wright Co. moves up on the ‘15 Deadliest Counties’ list

December 17, 2007

Counties ranked by alcohol-related crashes and severe traffic injuries

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Wright County is showing a deadly trend as it slowly climbs up the ladder to the seventh most deadly county in the state, up from last year’s eighth place ranking. See graph.

Numbers have recently been tallied by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety for impaired driving fatalities and serious injury crashes from 2004 through 2006.

Wright County had 17 alcohol-related fatalities, 33 alcohol-related severe traffic injuries, and gave out 2,218 DWIs during the three-year period.

Last year, 67 percent of the county’s fatal crashes involved alcohol. This is more than double the state average of 33 percent, said Pat Hackman from Safe Communities of Wright County.

Although Wright County is a growing population – and when you add population, you add miles driven as well – the numbers show Wright County is increasing in impaired driving fatalities in the last four years, Hackman said.

“Our rate is higher than what it’s been. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with population,” she added.

At one point, Wright County was number 13 on the list, she said.

“There are more alcohol-related crashes now than five years ago and that’s a concern,” Hackman said.

The top 15 deadliest counties in Minnesota are Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Dakota, St. Louis, Stearns, Wright, Crow Wing, Washington, Sherburne, Rice, Blue Earth, Beltrami, Cass, and Olmsted.

Together, the top 15 deadliest counties had 74,485 DWI arrests, 272 alcohol-related traffic deaths, and 762 serious injuries from 2004 through 2006, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

The highest, Hennepin County, had 48 alcohol-related traffic fatalities and 202 alcohol-related severe traffic injuries during that time.

Wright County, listed at number seven, had 17 alcohol-related fatalities, 33 alcohol-related severe traffic injuries, and gave out 2,218 DWIs during the three-year period.

Meeker County is 41 out of Minnesota’s 87 counties had five alcohol-related deaths, giving out 375 DWIs from 2004 through 2006. In 2006 alone, Meeker County had one alcohol-related traffic death and gave out 147 DWIs.

McLeod County, number 34 on the list, had three alcohol-related deaths and gave out 866 DWIs during 2004 through 2006. In 2006, the county had two alcohol-related deaths and issued 367 DWIs.

Carver County, number 27 on the list, had seven alcohol-related deaths and gave out 1,263 DWIs in the three years. Last year, there were two alcohol-related deaths and 430 DWIs issued.

Operation NightCAP

Motorists will likely be seeing an increase in law enforcement this holiday season since it is one of the busiest impaired driving periods.

“Holiday weekends are among the busiest DWI nights of the year,” Hackman said.

Last December, during a similar law enforcement crack-down, there were 3,361 DWI arrests across the state, including alcohol-related crashes that killed 18 motorists – which was nearly 40 percent of the total traffic deaths that month, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Since Wright County is on the list of the 15 deadliest counties, it will also be a focus of the 2008 Operation NightCAP.

Operation NightCAP is a nighttime concentrated alcohol patrol. It is a federally-funded program that combines local, county, and state law enforcement agencies to target specific roadways when impaired driving is most likely.

Last year, more than 250 NightCAP efforts resulted in 2,541 impaired driving arrests and one DWI per 15 traffic stops.

“Enhanced enforcement is one way to keep the roads safer, but the safest option is always to drive sober or find a sober driver. With all the celebrations going on over the next few weeks, don’t forget the best gift you can give yourself and others is that of a safe and responsible driver,” Hackman said.