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Law enforcement out looking for drunken, unbelted drivers

WILLMAR -- Officers from the law enforcement agencies in Kandiyohi and Swift counties will work overtime shifts, cracking down on late-summer impaired and unbelted drivers, through Labor Day weekend.

The local agencies are joining more than 400 law enforcement agencies as part of the statewide Safe and Sober effort coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Department of Public Safety statistics show that 455 people died in car crashes last year in Minnesota, with more than one-third, 163 motorists, killed in alcohol-related crashes. In addition, 337 people were severely injured in alcohol-related crashes.

Some numerical facts to know about driving while impaired:

- Anyone in control of a vehicle at or over the presumptive alcohol limit of 0.08 who has contact with the law will be arrested for DWI. Minnesota law states that motorists can be arrested for impaired driving even if their alcohol level is under 0.08 if they demonstrate impaired driving behavior. Commercial vehicle drivers are arrested at 0.04 alcohol concentration.

- In Minnesota, an average of 106 people per day are arrested for DWI. However, drinking and driving is more prevalent on weekends.

- Four in ten people arrested for DWI have prior DWI convictions on their record.

- People in their 20s represent 43 percent of DWI arrests in Minnesota during 2008.

- Drivers under 21 represent 1 in 10 of the total DWI arrests. Under Minnesota's "Not a Drop" law, anyone under age 21 who drives when there is any alcohol in their system will be cited and will lose their driving privileges for one to six months.

- Three of four DWI arrestees are male.

- Of impaired drivers killed, 76 percent are not wearing seat belts.

- Nearly two-thirds of fatal alcohol-related crashes in the state involve only one moving vehicle hitting a fixed object, parked car, or leaving the roadway and rolling over.

- On weekends, 46 percent of motorcycle fatalities were alcohol-related. For all days, 39 percent of motorcyclists who died were over the limit of 0.08; and 47 percent tested positive for some alcohol.

- DWI is a crime with serious consequences. With all legal fees, court costs, and an increase in insurance rates, a first-time DWI arrest can cost nearly $20,000. Harm someone while you're driving impaired, and you can spend years in state prison and be subject to civil liability.