Extra patrols look for drunken drivers

Published 9:04 am Monday, December 8, 2008

Throughout the month of December, the Albert Lea Police Department and Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office, along with 400 other law enforcement agencies across the state, are increasing their impaired driving enforcement out of an effort to prevent traffic tragedies during the holiday season.

According to a news release issued by the police department, the month of December is one of the deadliest months for alcohol-related crashes.

During the last three years in December, 41 motorists across the state were killed in alcohol-related crashes and more than 10,000 were arrested for driving while intoxicated, the release stated.

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In Freeborn County during 2005 and 2007, law enforcement officers arrested 629 people for impaired driving and there were three impaired driving deaths. More than 30 percent of those people arrested for drunken driving were young adults in their early 20s or were under the legal age, according to the release.

In 2006 alone there were 192 impaired driving arrests; in 2007 there were 174; and thus far in 2008 there have been 159.

“An effective route to stop impaired driving is through extra enforcement,” said Albert Lea Police Lt. J.D. Carlson. “Law enforcement is serious about taking impaired drivers off the road, and we need citizens to be serious about planning ahead for safe rides and avoid the repercussions of drinking and driving.”

In addition to working to take impaired drivers off the road this month, officers and deputies will monitor seat belt usage, as seat belts can minimize the risk of death or injury.

The officers and deputies are also encouraging the use of designated driver gift certificates, which can be sent to friends and family via e-mail. The certificates offer a safe ride home for a night out and call for the recipient to return the favor.

The gift certificates can be found at www.minnesotasafeandsober.org.

In Minnesota, more than 500,000 motorists — or one in eight people — have a DWI on their driving record, the release stated.

The increased efforts are part of the Safe & Sober campaign, which is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and administered by the Department of Public Safety. The program is designed to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries.