Technology and Cooperation Help Make Minnesota Roads Safer

Thanks to 500 cameras, 69 state patrol radio dispatchers, and numerous alert motorists with cell phones, a significant number of drunk drivers were arrested in Minnesota last year before they could cause drunk driving accidents.

In an effort to keep Minnesota’s highways safe, the Department of Transportation installed a traffic video network — in places like the Twin Cities, Duluth and St. Cloud ” that allows dispatchers to keep a watchful eye on possible drunk drivers while state patrol officers catch up with the offenders. The dispatchers are alerted to problem motorists by 911 calls placed by other drivers.

Dispatcher Stacy Haas explained to the Star Tribune what the process of finding these drunk drivers involves. When a call comes in, she elicits information from the caller about the location of the problem driver, while her partner, Sarah Johnson, uses a joystick to maneuver cameras on the highway. In order to find the erratic driver, Haas or Johnson has each caller describe where he or she is traveling on the highway ” as well as give information about the car, including the license plate number, that the suspicious driver is operating. In some cases, if the dispatch team is having difficulty finding the drunk driver, callers will be asked to turn on their hazard lights.

Once dispatchers determine where the drunk driver is located on the road, they alert state troopers of the problem so that an arrest can be made.

The program has been a huge success ” 20 motorists call 911 to report drunk drivers daily, and this resulted in 662 DWI arrests last year. Minnesota law enforcement authorities hope that more Minnesotans will report drunk and dangerous drivers to prevent drunk driving accidents.

“We urge you to call 911,” Lt. Chris Erickson told the Star Tribune.