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Crackdown on drunken driving under way through Labor Day

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota State Patrol and nearly 400 city and county agencies will be cracking down on drunken drivers in an increased law enforcement effort that began Friday and ends Sept. 5.

The theme of the effort is "drive sober or get pulled over."

Officials of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety say added enforcement and education campaigns have factored in a continuing decline of impaired driving tragedies. There were 131 alcohol-related traffic deaths in 2010, the fewest on record and down 21 percent from five years ago.

Still, between 2006 and 2010, 791 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, reflecting impaired driving as a factor annually in one-third of the state's road fatalities. To date in 2011, 202 traffic deaths have occurred in Minnesota compared with 247 at this time last year.

"Minnesota law enforcement agencies work hard to keep roads safe by arresting drunk and impaired drivers because we've seen first-hand the deadly results of the crashes they cause," says Col. Kevin Daly, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol.

"It's critical that every Minnesotan works just as hard to ensure they have a plan in place for a sober ride before making the mistake of getting behind the wheel impaired," said Daly.

A driving while impaired offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands in costs and possible jail time. Since July 1, stronger DWI sanctions became effective for all repeat DWI offenders, as well as for motorists arrested for a first-time DWI with a 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level.

Under the new sanctions, DWI offenders must use ignition interlock for at least a year or face at least one year without driving privileges. More than 30,000 motorists are arrested for DWI each year; one in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on record.

Motorists are encouraged designate a sober driver, use a cab or public transportation, or stay at the location of the celebration. Families should let each other know that they will be available to offer a safe ride home.

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