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Area traffic enforcement ramped up for the Fourth

WILLMAR -- July 1 saw the start of enhanced speed enforcement in west central Minnesota for this month.

Because July is typically one of the deadliest times of year on Minnesota's roads, the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety is coordinating a statewide Safe and Sober/Toward Zero Deaths education and enforcement campaign this month.

The law enforcement agencies from west central Minnesota met and chose specific dates when all agencies will focus on speed enforcement -- whether funded for Safe and Sober over-time hours or not.

Certain dates will include regional coverage of high-crash rural roadways such as Highway 12, highway 19 and Highway 23. These higher-risk roads often see crashes with severe injuries and deaths, often made more violent by higher speeds. Nearly 70 percent of Minnesota's speed-related crashes occur in rural areas of under 5,000 people.

Personnel not assigned on those designated routes will enforce neighborhood and community speeds, since 45 percent of deaths related to speeding nationwide happen on roads with posted speed limits of 45 mph or lower, whether urban or rural.

The posted speed is the top speed drivers are allowed to go under good weather and road conditions.

In 2008, 125 people were killed in speeding-related crashes in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety also is reinforcing the need for motorists to drive belted, safe and sober during the Independence Day weekend. Last year alcohol-related crashes accounted for five of the eight motorists killed surrounding the holiday. Another 1,819 motorists were arrested for DWI.

To combat impaired driving, Operation NightCAP (nighttime concentrated alcohol patrol) enhanced DWI enforcement efforts will be conducted during the Fourth of July weekend. DWI patrols will ramp up in Anoka, Blue Earth, Crow Wing, Dakota, Hennepin, Itasca, Ramsey, Rice, St. Louis, Sherburne, Stearns, Washington and Wright counties.

In June, NightCAP enforcement campaigns resulted in 2,862 vehicle stops, 183 DWI arrests and 138 seat belt citations.