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2,655 drivers have not-so-happy holidays, get arrested for impaired driving

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ST. PAUL -- A December-long statewide DWI enforcement effort resulted in 2,655 DWI arrests. The average alcohol-concentration of the DWI offenders was 0.14 -- nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08. Preliminary arrest totals were reported by 331 of around 400 participating agencies. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety coordinated the effort.

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Locally, 25 people were arrested for impaired driving in December by officers in Kandiyohi and Swift counties. The preliminary total of DWI arrests in just Kandiyohi County during 2008 is about 270, with another 25 to 30 by the Benson PD and Swift County Sheriff's Office.

The statewide enhanced impaired driving enforcement also resulted in 1,653 seat belt non-use citations. DPS included the seat belt focus to counter unbelted nighttime fatalities, which are especially prevalent in alcohol-related crashes. Of the impaired drivers and their passengers killed in alcohol-related crashes during 2005-2007, more than 70 percent were not wearing seat belts.

"State law enforcement officers are committed to making our roads safer by arresting impaired drivers," says Jean Ryan, alcohol programs coordinator of DPS Office of Traffic Safety. "These enforcement efforts are aimed to prevent tragedies and encourage people to plan for a safe ride."

The Minnesota State Patrol made 420 DWI arrests during the campaign. Among metro agencies, Minneapolis Police Department made 69 DWI arrests, followed by the police departments of Bloomington (51), St. Paul (51), and Burnsville (41). In greater Minnesota, St. Cloud Police Department made 45 DWI arrests, followed Mankato PD (39), Moorhead PD (38), and Rochester PD (35).

Over the last three years in Minnesota, 2005-2007, alcohol-related crashes accounted for 553 traffic deaths and 1,253 serious injuries -- and 117,764 motorists were arrested for DWI.

The December DWI enforcement was funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is a component of the state's cornerstone traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths. The next special enforcement wave will be on Super Bowl Sunday.

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