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Paynesville Press - August 16, 2006

Local police targeting impaired drivers over Labor Day

The Paynesville Police Department will target impaired driving during a Safe & Sober enforcement and education campaign from Friday, Aug. 18, to Monday, Sept. 4.

The statewide effort is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and will include 400 law enforcement agencies.

The Minnesota State Patrol District 2600 (encompassing Wright, Sherburne, Stearns, Meeker, Kandiyohi, Pope, Benton, Todd, Stevens, Swift, Grant, Big Stone, and Traverse counties) will also be participating in the campaign.

From 2001 to 2005, there were 36 alcohol-related deaths in Stearns County with an estimated economic impact of $38.6 million. During this same period, 4,742 motorists were arrested in the county for driving while intoxicated.

Kandiyohi County recorded five alcohol-related deaths over the same period with $5.5 million in economic impact and 1,382 motorists arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Meeker County recorded ten alcohol-related deaths with $10.7 million in estimated economic impact and 519 motorists arrested for driving while intoxicated.

"It's a simple concept...if you drive impaired and you are over the legal limit of 0.08, you will be under arrest," said Paynesville Police Chief Kent Kortlever. "There's also a simple solution, designate a sober driver or use alternative transportation."

"Enjoy the last months of summer; have fun, but please designate a driver," added Lieutenant Sean Meagher of the Minnesota State Patrol. "Plan ahead, so you don't make the wrong decision and get behind the wheel."

Last year, the state's legal alcohol concentration dropped from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent. The state reports there were over 1,500 DWI arrests under 0.10 in 2005.

Young persons continue to be the primary violators of impaired driving. From 2001 to 2005, more than 39 percent of DWIs in Stearns County were committed by drivers in their early 20s and by those under the legal drinking age. These groups accounted for nearly a third of all DWI arrests statewide over the same time period.

The safest plan, according to law enforcement officials, is to have a plan before imbibing: use alternative transportation, designate a sober driver, call for a cab or a friend, take the bus, or stay the night at the location of the celebration.

Safe & Sober is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is designed to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries.

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