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Minnesota officers declaring open season on impaired road turkeys this holiday

WILLMAR -- Area law enforcement officers, along with Twin Cities law officers and the Minnesota State Patrol, are adding servings of driving while impaired enforcement this Thanksgiving holiday season.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety is coordinating the enforcement, which focuses on Thanksgiving Eve on Wednesday and the holiday weekend. The holiday is historically one of the year's deadliest travel periods. In Minnesota during the Thanksgiving travel period from Wednesday through Sunday in 2008 to 2010, 16 motorists were killed and 1,834 motorists were arrested for DWI. Of the 16 deaths, six were alcohol-related and seven were unbelted occupants.

"Sadly, some families will have an empty seat at their holiday table," says Lt. Eric Roeske of the State Patrol. "Arresting impaired drivers is a preventive measure to ensure safety on Minnesota roads."

The DPS suggests following this recipe for traffic safety to ensure safe Thanksgiving travel:

n Buckle up before and after you gobble up.

n Plan for enough travel time to avoid the urge to speed -- the posted speed is the speed limit.

n Pay attention. Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel periods.

n If you plan on drinking, plan for a safe and sober ride home.

A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands in costs and possible jail time. Stronger DWI sanctions are in effect for all repeat DWI offenders, as well as for motorists arrested for a first-time DWI with an alcohol-concentration level of 0.16 and above. Under these sanctions, offenders must use ignition interlock for at least a year or face at least one year without driving privileges.

Interlock requires a driver to provide a breath sample under 0.02 for the vehicle to start. Safety officials say interlock ensures DWI offenders are driving legally and safely. Potential participants of program can learn more at