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Crackdown on drunken driving

With federal help, local authorities work overtime

By Jeff Hansel

jhansel@postbulletin.com

The Minnesota State Patrol says Olmsted County is the 14th-worst county for alcohol-related automobile-crash deaths and serious injuries among the state's 87 counties.

In an effort to address that 28 percent (255) of the state's 655 traffic deaths in 2003 were alcohol-related, the State Patrol, Olmsted County Sheriff's Department and Rochester Police Department plan "saturation-enforcement" activities at least once a month next year.

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During a Nightcap Saturation enforcement Friday, Lt. Randy Slinger of the State Patrol said two officers from each of three agencies took drunken drivers into custody.

The preliminary results include:

47 vehicles stopped.

Twenty-seven citations issued.

Three people arrested for impaired driving.

Citations were written for driving after revocation, suspension or cancellation; open bottle; speeding; seat-belt violations; an equipment violation and miscellaneous things.

Slinger said one officer witnessed an intoxicated driver ignore a stop sign, hit another vehicle and flee. That driver was arrested.

Overtime for the enforcement effort is being paid for with a $23,000 federal Safe and Sober grant.

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In 2002, Slinger said, 41 percent of the 32,948 impaired-driving arrests were of repeat offenders. One in 10 licensed drivers in Minnesota has a history of driving while impaired on their driving record, he said. Between 1998 and 2002, there were 3,981 arrests of people driving while impaired, or almost 800 per year, Slinger said.

He said officers will target next year's patrols to events with large gatherings where people might consider driving while impaired.

Olmsted County's ranking is improving, Slinger said. Two years ago, it was the eighth-worst county.

"At least we're having some progress in the right direction," he said.

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