By Brian Ojanpa
The Free Press
If you drink and drive in December, it could be a mistake you’ll remember.
Area law enforcement officers want to see to that.
Law enforcement agencies from seven entities are again stepping up their patrols this month with the onset of the annual Safe and Sober DWI/Holiday Enforcement campaign.
Area officers will be among 400 law enforcement agencies in Minnesota focusing their efforts through New Year’s Eve.
“We’ll have more officers on the roads, working more hours, all focused toward arresting drivers that are putting innocent lives at risk,” said Adam Gray of the Mankato Department of Public Safety.
During Minnesota Decembers 2007-2009, there were 112 traffic deaths with 34 of them alcohol-related.
In Blue Earth and Nicollet counties during that same period, there were 27 traffic fatalities with 10 alcohol-related.
Statewide during that period 2,536 motorists were arrested for drunken driving.
Minnesota law states that motorists can be arrested for impaired driving even if their alcohol-concentration level is under 0.08 (the state’s legal limit) if they demonstrate impaired driving behavior.
Mankato businessman and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is scheduled to talk to officers at a pre-patrol briefing tonight about how his family’s life was impacted after his wife’s niece Kandyce Stoffel was killed by an impaired driver in October.
Taylor and the Timberwolves also had to deal with the 2000 death of player Malik Sealy, who was killed by a drunk driver.
The Safe and Sober campaign started about 20 years ago and enhanced DWI enforcement stints are scheduled periodically throughout the year.
Federal funding for the increased patrols comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Participating area agencies are police departments in Mankato, North Mankato, St. Peter and Lake Crystal; State Patrol District 2200 and sheriff’s departments in Blue Earth and Nicollet counties.