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DWI arrests up dramatically in Hubbard County

Increased drunken driving enforcement in the region has resulted in about a 50 percent increase in Hubbard County DWI arrests.

"The guys are really hitting it hard out there," said Sheriff Cory Aukes.

He said he doubts there are more drunken drivers out on the roadways, but deputies are aggressively patrolling for those potential offenders.

And as the rest of the state gears up for another Safe & Sober campaign over the Labor Day weekend, it's business as usual, or above average, for Hubbard County.

"Drive sober or get pulled over" is the message - added DWI enforcement will hit the roads in Minnesota and in every state, during the nation's biggest DWI enforcement effort of the year.

It began Aug. 19.

In Minnesota, the State Patrol will partner with nearly 400 city and county agencies to prevent alcohol-related tragedies, joining 10,000 participating agencies nationwide.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety administers the state's effort. DPS officials say added enforcement and education campaigns have factored in a continuing decline of impaired driving 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.

Minnesota law enforcement agencies work hard to keep roads safe by arresting drunk and impaired drivers because we've seen first-hand the deadly results of the crashes they cause, says Col. Kevin Daly, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol.

It's critical that every Minnesotan works just as hard to ensure they have a plan in place for a sober ride before making the mistake of getting behind the wheel impaired.

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:

n 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.

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

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

The campaign is supported by a statewide advertising campaign and the new national DWI enforcement slogan, "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over."

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 has been 202 traffic deaths compared to 247 at this time in 2010.

Aukes said the department has capitalized on smaller grants to defray overtime to patrol the highways.

"I'm very proud of them," he said.