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First weekend of DWI crackdown: At least 232 arrested

ST. PAUL - At least 232 motorists were arrested for DWI, August 19-21, the first weekend of a statewide crackdown running through Labor Day, according to preliminary reports from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety.

The number of arrests was reported by 108 out of around 400 participating law enforcement agencies. The "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign is being conducted nationwide.

DPS officials report added enforcement and education campaigns have factored in a continuing decline of alcohol-related tragedies. There were 131 alcohol-related traffic deaths in 2010, the fewest on record and down 21 percent from five years ago. Still, in the last five years (2006-2010), 791 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes - reflecting impaired driving as a factor annually in one-third of the state's road fatalities.

A DWI 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.

DPS encourages Minnesotans to:

--Plan for a safe ride - designate a sober driver, use a cab/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.

--Buckle up and wear protective motorcycle gear - the best defenses against an impaired driver.

--Report impaired driving - call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Witnesses must be prepared to provide location, license plate and observed dangerous behavior.

Enhanced DWI patrols are a component of the state's core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes - education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.

To date in 2011, there have been 206 traffic deaths compared to 253 at this time in 2010.