More patrols will be watching for drunken drivers in 13 counties this Thanksgiving eve, with added enforcement continuing until September 2013.
The counties, selected because they have the highest combined totals of drunken-driving deaths and alcohol-related serious injuries, include the state's population centers of the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester and St. Cloud. But other counties don't fit that description.
Jean Ryan, impaired driving coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said two new counties on the list, Becker and Meeker, had unusually high numbers of fatalities and injuries compared with the "miles traveled" in those areas.
The added patrols are part of a federally funded program, which will continue to provide the increased enforcement and education for the entire fiscal year.
The idea is to provide targeted counties with added dollars so they can develop a plan to reduce injuries and fatalities.
The program has been successful in the past, Ryan said. For example, Blue Earth County was on the list of dangerous counties for drunken driving for years, but this year it is down to 33rd.
"There are some counties that have taken a lot of initiative in taking ownership and changing the problem," Ryan said.
Enforcement, Ryan said, will work only when paired with education. The counties will also pay for advertisements and programs that give potential drunken drivers an alternative to getting behind the wheel.
"We want people to understand that we are trying to develop a program to help them make the right decision," Ryan said. "We don't want them to go impaired and get arrested, but if they do, enforcement is going to be there."
Alejandra Matos 612-673-4028 Twitter: @amatos12