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300+ drunk driving arrests, 1 fatality in MN over the July 4 weekend

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The Minnesota State Patrol says 328 people were arrested for drunk driving over the July 4 holiday weekend, and one person died in a DWI-related crash.

According to the agency, those numbers are an improvement over the five-year average of 430 arrests and five fatalities.

Leading up to the holiday weekend, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced it would be stepping up its DWI enforcement in the 25 counties it says are the most dangerous for drunk driving.

The Fourth of July is the third deadliest holiday for drunk driving deaths in Minnesota, according to the DPS; 40 percent of all traffic fatalities during that holiday period involve drivers who are impaired.

Only Thanksgiving (54 percent) and Christmas (46 percent) rank higher for drunk driving deaths during holiday periods.

Overall, the number of DWI arrests continues to decline in the state. From 2006 to 2014, drunk driving arrests have dropped 40 percent – from 42,016 to 25,258, according to the DPS.

In addition, the number of deaths caused by drunk driving-related accidents is also down. In 2014, there were 88 such deaths reported in the state, which is a 21 percent drop compared to 2010.

Drunk boating

Law enforcement is also turning its attention to drunken boat operators.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources launched a stepped-up enforcement campaign against drunk boating in late June, noting that operating a boat while under the influence is just as dangerous as driving a car.

According to the DNR, 42 percent of fatal boating accidents on Minnesota’s lakes and rivers over the last five years were alcohol-related – including six out of the 14 fatal accidents that happened in 2014.

Just this past weekend, an Eden Prairie woman died in a boating accident on Cass Lake, and the driver of the boat was arrested on suspicion of boating while intoxicated.

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office said the incident occurred around 4:15 p.m. on July 4. The boat, with four passengers, hit a wave and caused three of the four people to be thrown into the water.

The driver and his 4-year-old son were rescued from the lake by nearby anglers. The third passenger, 50-year-old Brenda Larson, was found in the water, unresponsive, a short time later. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The fourth person on the boat was the boy's mother and wife of the driver, according to the sheriff's department.

The driver, a 45-year-old Minnetonka man, is in custody in the Beltrami County jail awaiting charges. Authorities say the child was the only one of the four who was wearing a life jacket.

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