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DWI effort planned for St. Patrick's Day

Morris, Minn. -- Before you chug that first green beer on St. Patrick's Day, swallow this: a DWI comes with serious consequences so plan in advance for a safe and sober ride home.

Stevens County Law Enforcement are especially concerned during St. Patrick's Day -- historically a dangerous drinking and driving party period -- as the holiday falls on a Saturday. The last time that occurred (2007), 527 motorists were arrested for DWI and all three traffic deaths were alcohol-related. In a typical two-day period in Minnesota, 170 motorists are arrested for DWI.

"St. Patrick's is an all-day drinking event for many, which means roads are at risk all day," says Officer Reggie Welle. "To those who take the risk, they will pay the price. There is no excuse for driving impaired, there are plenty of options to avoid drinking and driving, we all just need to plan ahead."

The holiday has been safer in recent, non-weekend years. During the last three years on St. Patrick's Day, 2008-2010, there were seven deaths and only one was alcohol-related; 606 people were arrested for DWI.

Welle says this drop could be attributed to the holiday falling on weekdays, but it also may be connected to the recent trend of fewer alcohol-related deaths and DWIs in Minnesota. In 2010, there were 131 alcohol-related deaths in Minnesota, the lowest on record. Still, these crashes account for one-third of the state's total annual deaths.

DWI enforcement and education is 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.