Minnesota State Trooper shares story to warn of drunk driving dangers

Minnesota drivers may have seen extra DWI enforcements across the state since Thanksgiving. This weekend, they’ll see even more.

Patrols will be ramped up this Friday and Saturday as law enforcement prepares for the Christmas holiday, one that averages more drunk driving deaths than most other holidays.

While he was off duty last Christmas weekend, Trooper Gordon Shank was badly rear-ended by a drunk driver.

“I was at a dead stop, and I remember looking in my mirror and my head went forward and I’m like, ‘I just got hit. I can’t believe I just got hit," Shank said. “I got out of my car and he said, ‘I’m trying to figure out why you were stopped,’ and I said, ‘I’m at a red light,’ and then I could tell that he had been drinking. I could smell it and see it and I’m like, ‘this guy’s drunk.’"

Little did that driver know, he had crashed into the top DWI enforcer of 2012 and 2013. During those two years, Lieutenant Shank had made more drunk driving arrests than anyone else in Minnesota.

“I’ll never know, but of those 269 arrests, I believe I saved a life. I tell myself I did because I believe I did," he said.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports that Christmas is one of the deadliest holidays when it comes to drunk driving. From 2013-2017, Christmas ranks high in the percentage of drunk driving-related fatalities (23.3 percent) during holidays, behind Labor Day (29.6 percent) and Halloween (26.7 percent).

Families who have lost loved ones say it makes the day almost unbearable.

“It’s terrible not only for me and my family, but for thousands of other families whose holidays have been destroyed forever," said Jon Cummings, who lost his son to a drunk driver.

Instead of going to holiday parties, every year Jon Cummings decorates a tree at his son's grave site.

“The holidays will never ever be the same again and for what? We all know better," Cummings said.

While Christmas ranks last out of major holidays for DWI arrests, the State Patrol says it's still too many. 

“We don’t want to arrest anybody. We want people to plan ahead, but we’re out there and we want people to know that," Shank said.