The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

August 16, 2013

Extra DWI enforcement runs through Labor Day

MANKATO — Extra law enforcement will be out through Labor Day as part of the annual DWI enforcement campaign dubbed Toward Zero Deaths.

"This is going to be a renewed push by law enforcement to drive sober," said Sgt. Adam Gray of the Mankato Department of Public Safety.

Blue Earth County, which once ranked 13th in the state for the number of alcohol-related fatalities, had dropped to the 30s in the ranking but has moved up to 25th, Gray said.

That top 25 designation will bring more federal funds to pay for additional DWI patrols throughout the year.

Starting Friday night, at least one extra officer will be on DWI patrol from each of 13 area agencies, with Blue Earth County adding four additional deputies and Mankato three officers.

"The enforcement has definitely made a difference," Blue Earth County deputy Tom Coulter said about past efforts to target drunken drivers.

He said the blood-alcohol level of those arrested has steadily risen in recent years with local officers routinely arresting two to three people a weekend with a BAC of 0.3 percent or higher. The legal level for driving is below 0.08 percent.

"It's like a bullet looking for a target. They're at a level of impairment where they can barely walk much less drive."

Officers also will be stepping up seatbelt enforcement during the campaign.

The statewide effort coincides with the start of classes at Minnesota State University next week.

In Minnesota, one-third of traffic fatalities are alcohol related.

In the past five years there have been nine alcohol related deaths in Blue Earth County and five in Nicollet County. Each year, in Minnesota, nearly 30,000 motorists are arrested for DWI. During the last three years, more than 100 people annually were killed in impaired driving crashes in Minnesota.

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