Should a Suspended Minnesota DWI Driver Operate a Snowmobile?

can-minnesota-dwi-drive-snowmobileDrunk driving laws can be surprisingly comprehensive, but there are loopholes. For instance, youlre not allowed to drive a snowmobile drunk in Minnesota (or just about any state), because a motor vehicle is a motor vehicle. The problem: if you’re suspended for driving a car drunk, does that go for snowmobiles too?

Currently in Minnesota, the answer is no. But road safety advocates are trying to change that. The impetus was the death of an 8-year-old boy who was struck by a drunk snowmobile driver. The driver, as it turned out, had a history of drunk driving revocations and a pending DWI charge.

A bill, HF 3924, has been introduced in the legislature which would pull all snowmobile and ATV driving privileges from anyone convicted of a Minnesota DWI. The bill was authored by Representative Ann Neu, R-North Branch.

Blazing a Trail Through Congress

The bill is doing well. It already passed through one committee by unanimous vote. In a move that might surprise some cynics, representatives from two state snowmobile associations testified in favor of the bill.

The lack of opposition is understandable: the measure makes a lot of sense. Snowmobiles and ATVs can be dangerous in the hands of an impaired driver. There is no discernible logic to exempting them from driving restrictions after a DWI. The fact that they are chiefly recreational vehicles does not constitute a good argument for allowing convicted drunk drivers to operate them.

Currently ignition interlocks cannot be installed on such vehicles, so banning is the only measure available. Ignition interlocks, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, are the preferred method of keeping impaired drivers from repeating their crime.

If passed, HF 3924 will not be the easiest law to enforce – Minnesota DWI patrols do not generally ply snowmobile trails – but it sends a message that Minnesota will not tolerate any kind of drunk driving, no matter what the vehicle.