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Drivers urged to make sober choice during holiday parties

"Don't be what you drink. Drive sober or be pulled over."

St. Joseph's Area Health Services and the local Toward Zero Deaths "Safe Roads" coalition want to ensure that families are together for the new year and that there are no tragedies caused by impaired driving.

"A trip to jail for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence (DWI/DUI) is certain to ruin the holidays," said Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. "There's no excuse for impaired driving; there are plenty of safe alternatives."

An estimated 1,300 people have been arrested for DWI to date in December 2012, according to preliminary DWI arrest information from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety. Local Toward Zero Deaths "Safe Roads" coalition members would like to remind drivers of the serious consequences of impaired driving.

A DWI/DUI offense can result in loss of driver's license for up to a year as well as thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time. Repeat offenders must use ignition interlock (device that prohibits the engine from starting if an alcohol sensing device registers above a pre-set level)to regain legal driving privileges or face a year without license. Offenders with three or more offenses must use interlock for three to six years or never again regain a license.

Plan to be safe.

Have a safe ride home by asking for a sober driver.

Call the local Park Rapids Taxi Service at 732-1237.

Stay at the location of the celebration.

Tell your family or friends where you are.

Buckle up.

Report unsafe driving by calling 911 and identifying location, license plate number, and specific behavior.

Hubbard County's work as part of the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) coalition is funded by a $12,000 grant sponsored through St. Joseph's Community Health and is steered by Raeann Mayer, St. Joseph's Community Health Manager.

Coalition members include Dennis Mackedanz, North Memorial Ambulance; Cory Aukes and Scott Parks, Hubbard County Sheriff's Office; Todd Paulouski, Headwaters Driving School; Carrie Parks and Terry Eilers, Park Rapids Police Department; Dave Olsonawski, Hubbard County engineer; Don Dearstyne, Hubbard County attorney; Raeann Mayer, St. Joseph's Community Health; Lindsey Nicklason, St. Joseph's Communication/ Development.

The mission of the TZD coalition is to "eliminate traffic deaths and injuries in Hubbard County through the collective implementation of education, engineering, enforcement, and emergency medical and trauma services."

If you would like to be involved in the valuable work of the Toward Zero Deaths coalition, call Raeann Mayer at 255-4833.