As the holiday season approaches, the Minnesota State Patrol plans to step up enforcement against drunk drivers.
Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said extra patrols will start Wednesday in the 13 Minnesota counties where most drunk driving crashes occur.
"We want to minimize the number of lives lost, especially related to alcohol use," Roeske said. "It's not about catching people and putting them in jail, it's about getting the message out and preventing these incidents from occurring in the first place."
Roeske urged people who plan to drink to designate sober drivers or make other arrangements to avoid driving while intoxicated.
The operations include increased patrols in the following counties: Hennepin, Ramsey, St. Louis, Anoka, Dakota, Olmsted, Washington, Stearns, Wright, Sherburne, Becker, Meeker and Otter Tail.
Those 13 counties had more than half of all the DWIs in the state, or 58,465 compared to 92,542 DWIs statewide from 2009 - 2011. During that same time period, 160 people died in drunk driving-related accidents in the 13 county region, and 344 died statewide.
The operation is funded by federal grants to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety. The extra patrols will continue until September 2013.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports that 111 deaths resulted last year from accidents involving drivers who were over the legal blood-alcohol level. In 2011, 29,257 people were arrested for DWI in Minnesota.