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Law enforcement plans 'a wee bit' of extra DWI enforcement this weekend

Partygoers are reminded to plan ahead for a sober ride this St. Patrick's Day weekend as several law enforcement agencies around the state will be adding extra DWI patrols on the roads to prevent alcohol-related crashes.

St. Patrick's Day is historically a dangerous drinking and driving period, according to the Minnesota Department Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety. Officials are especially concerned this year as the holiday falls on a Sunday -- meaning revelers may make a weekend of celebrating.

There have been 11 traffic deaths in the last five years during the St. Patrick's Day holiday; at least two of the deaths involved a drunk driver. The lower percentage of drunk driving deaths may demonstrate more people are planning ahead, according to DPS officials. During this same time period, 1,241 motorists were arrested for DWI during the holiday.

"Weekend-long events could make for a potentially dangerous situation on our roads," says Donna Berger, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. "If you're planning on drinking, plan ahead for a sober ride."

Since 2008, the number of people arrested for DWI on St. Patrick's Day has gone up every year as the holiday approached the weekend:

• 2008 (Monday) -- 165

• 2009 (Tuesday) -- 218

• 2010 (Wednesday) -- 225

• 2011 (Thursday) -- 287

• 2012 (Saturday) -- 346

Drunk Driving in Minnesota

In the last five years, 651 people were killed in drunk driving crashes. Drunk driving deaths account for one-third of the state's total deaths annually. Each year, nearly 30,000 people are arrested for DWI and one in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on record.

DWI Consequences

A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands in costs and possible jail time.

Repeat DWI offenders, as well as first-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level, must use ignition interlock in order to regain legal driving privileges, or face at least one year without a driver's license. Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.

Tips to Prevent Drunk Driving

• Plan for a safe ride -- designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration. Metro Transit is offering free rides Saturday, March 16 from 6 p.m. through the last scheduled trip on buses and light rail. In addition, those not planning to drink should let family/friends know if they are available to offer a safe ride home.

• Buckle up -- the best defense against a drunk driver.

• Report drunk driving -- call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.