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Statewide DWI crackdown runs through Labor Day

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Labor Day weekend is the second-deadliest major holiday on Minnesota roads, so law enforcement agencies around the state are increasing DWI enforcement in an effort to reduce the risk to motorists.

Deputies and troopers from more than 300 agencies will be working overtime shifts during this enhanced DWI enforcement effort, which runs from Aug. 21 through Labor Day, Sept. 7, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced Thursday.

“On a hot summer day, it’s easy to throw back a few drinks while enjoying the lake or backyard barbecue, and it’s easy to forget that driving home with a buzz is drunk driving,” Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director, said in the announcement.

On average, six DWI arrests, five crashes and three injuries are reported per hour on Minnesota roads over Labor Day weekend, contributing to it being the second-deadliest major holiday on state roads. From 2010-14, there were 24 fatalities over the the end-of-summer holiday.

The number of drunk driving-related crashes in Minnesota has declined 21 percent from 2010, but officials are still concerned because alcohol remains the leading cause of death on state roads, DPS says.

Drunken driving contributes to one in every four fatal crashes, officials note. Last year, 88 people were killed in drunken driving-related crashes, 2,040 were injured, and 25,258 motorists were arrested for DWI – an average of 70 per day.

The enhanced DWI enforcement campaign is part of the Department of Public Safety's Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) initiative, which has a goal of reducing the number of fatal crashes to 300 by 2020.

So far this year, at least 232 people have died on the state's roads, which is up from the 204 who were killed at this time last year, the TZD website notes.

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State DWI crackdown kicks off Friday, runs through Labor Day

State officials aren't waiting until Labor Day weekend to encourage people to plan for a sober ride if they are drinking. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said it will kick off its "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign Friday, which will run through Labor Day. The department said Thursday that 68 percent of fatal accidents last year involved drivers who had blood alcohol levels of at least .16 -- twice the legal limit for driving.

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From now through September law enforcers will focus on the counties that in recent years have accounted for nearly half of the alcohol-related deaths on the roads. That includes Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, St. Louis, Dakota, Wright, Olmsted, Rice, Washington, Stearns, Sherburne, Scott and Carver.