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Drunk driving enforcement to increase

You don't have to have yourself a merry little time in jail if you plan ahead for a sober ride this holiday season.

The Hubbard County Sheriffs Office and Park Rapids Police Department will increase drunk driving enforcement during a statewide and nationwide Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over DWI enforcement effort in December.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety coordinates the campaign.

In Hubbard County, 2009-2011, drunk-driving crashes accounted for one death and 20 serious injuries.

In Minnesota during this period, 344 people were killed in drunk driving crashes. Each year in the state, around 30,000 people are arrested for DWI.

DPS officials say enhanced DWI campaigns have helped to reduce drunk-driving crashes by 40 percent from a decade ago.

The December DWI patrols include participation from many local law enforcement agencies, including the Hubbard County Sheriffs Office, Minnesota State Patrol and the Park Rapids Police Department.

"The holiday celebration season and New Year's Eve can be a potentially deadly one due to drunk driving," says Deputy Brian Halbasch. "Make plans for a safe and sober ride, or face the 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.

Plan for a safe ride - designate a sober driver, use a cab or public transportation, or stay at the location of the celebration. Let family or friends know you are available to offer a safe ride home.

Buckle up - the best defenses 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.

Enhanced DWI enforcement and education campaigns are a component of the state's Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) initiative. 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.