Guest Author – June 2023

Colonel Matt Langer

The purpose of an impaired driving arrest
Colonel matt Langer
chief of the minnesota state Patrol

There is only one thing better than an impaired driver being pulled over and arrested. The only thing better is if that driver had opted not to drive impaired in the first place. While our collective goal should always be focused on preventing impaired, our next goal is to prevent the tragedies that occur at the hands of an impaired driver who is already on the road. We see them all too often.

Most of us grew up in agencies that track the statistics of our work. If traffic enforcement is your primary mission, then certainly the number of impaired drivers you arrested matters when it comes to evaluating your performance. It fills me with pride to see troopers, police officers, and deputies working hard to arrest impaired drivers. While the numbers that add up over a given shift, month, year, or career matter, I hope the numbers never matter more than the focus on the opportunity to save lives by transforming lives. That transformational opportunity happens with the interaction between an impaired driver and the peace officer making the arrest.

While the transaction of adding another arrest to the log adds up and indicates performance, it also represents prevention. It represents one impaired driver who was taken off the road before something bad happened. In our line of work, we cannot often see the crashes we prevented or the lives we saved. We have to keep the faith that each traffic stop and each arrest of an impaired driver makes a difference. Not only in the moment of that roadside transaction, but also in the opportunity for transformation. The opportunity for someone to walk away from addiction and make better choices can start with an arrest. The connections made and the conversations that occur provide the chance for better decision-making in the future. If it is rock bottom for the driver, then there is nowhere but up, and our peace officers are in the position to provide the support, guidance, and vision for the start of a better life.

Like many agencies, we give awards for impaired driving arrest proficiency. The trooper who arrests the most impaired drivers is bestowed the Eagle Squadron award. Each time we deliver the award, I remark about the unknown number of lives saved by these impaired drivers being intercepted and arrested before something bad happened. This is certainly true for the trooper who arrested the most impaired drivers, but it can be just as true for the trooper who arrested a much smaller number of impaired drivers. Even one arrest might just have been the arrest that prevented a death.

I encourage conversation about the purpose of a traffic stop. Indeed, it is to make our roads safer. While there are many traffic stops that promote traffic safety, stopping an impaired driver is amongst the most important interventions we can make. Next time you make that traffic stop and arrest an impaired driver, please know there are people like me who 1) thank you for possibly preventing a tragedy, and 2) appreciate the opportunity you have to transform the life of the impaired driver you are interacting with. Keep the faith and keep working hard.

Editor’s note: Please see the June 2023 MADD Officer of the Month, Trooper Gustavo Culbeaux. Trooper Culbeaux is the 2023 Minnesota State Patrol Eagle Squadron award winner with 171 impaired driving arrest in 2022.


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