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Statewide DWI crackdown on this month

Dakota County Chief Deputy Dave Bellows was among the law enforcement officers who announced a statewide crackdown on drunk driving during a press conference last week.

Officers from more than 400 law enforcement agencies across Minnesota will be stepping up their enforcement of impaired driving during December.

"As you can see by the city, county and state law enforcement presence here this morning, our agencies are serious about enforcing DWI laws and ensuring safe roads for all Minnesota drivers," Bellows said.

In Hastings, Police Chief Mike McMenomy said police officers will be working overtime on certain days to catch drunk drivers during the crackdown. The state reimburses the department for overtime hours logged for extra DWI enforcement.

Hastings officers will also be involved in saturation patrols around the county with the Dakota County Traffic Safety Group, where officers from city and county law enforcement agencies team up to patrol specific areas. They will also be participating in similar saturation patrols as part of the Minnesota State Patrol's NightCAP (Concentrated Alcohol Patrol) program.

According to information from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year's is typically the most deadly on Minnesota roads. From 2006-08, alcohol-related crashes in the month of December accounted for 44 traffic deaths and 76 serious injures. Also during that time period, almost 10,000 people were arrested for DWI.

From 2006-08 in Dakota County, there were 22 alcohol-related traffic deaths. More than 2,500 people were arrested for DWI in Dakota County in 2008.

Being arrested for DWI comes with a 90-day suspension of your driver's license, and up to $20,000 in fines when factoring in increased insurance rates, court and lawyer costs, driver reinstatement fees and more.

Bellows reminded people to plan ahead when drinking, and set up a safe ride home, whether it be a sober driver, taxi or public transportation.

"Or crash at the location of the celebration so you don't end up crashing on the road," Bellows said.

Bellows also asked people to look out for their family and friends and stop them from drinking and driving.

Overtime hours for extra enforcement during the December statewide crackdown will be funded through state and federal grants.