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A wake-up call about drunk driving

Drivers still don't get it.

After drinking too much alcohol, they think they won't get pulled over. They think they're still "good enough" to drive. They think they're not a danger to themselves and others.

More proof of that came from a statewide crackdown on unsafe driving that was conducted by more than 300 law enforcement agencies from Aug. 18 to Sept. 3. Officers, deputies and troopers arrested 1,370 drivers for DWI, compared with 1,351 arrests during last year's campaign.

Clearly, the battle against drunk driving is far from over.

Of particular concern is how drunk some of the drivers were. Seventeen agencies reported pulling over drivers with a blood-alcohol content of .30 or higher — nearly four times higher than the legal limit of .08. One of the worst cases happened in Douglas County, where a driver was arrested with a blood-alcohol content of .38.

The State Patrol provided a few chilling examples of just how impaired some drivers were:

• In Fillmore County, an SUV pulling a boat was seen veering into oncoming traffic, nearly causing a crash. A short time later, police found the vehicle pulled over on the shoulder of the highway with the driver passed out in the driver's seat along with several open rum containers. The driver, who told the officer he was too drunk to drive, blew a .38 blood-alcohol content.

• In Ely, a woman was arrested for a .24 level. Her boyfriend stated he was too drunk to drive so he asked his girlfriend to drive home. Booking could not be completed until the next day because she was too drunk.

• A man in Rice County who led police on a six-mile pursuit was arrested for his 10th DWI.

Scarier yet was the fact that some drivers also put the lives of children in danger. A mother in Cass County, for example, was traveling with her 2, 3 and 4-year-old children when she was arrested after blowing a .30 BAC.

Driving drunk isn't funny. It isn't cool or macho. It isn't a low-risk, high-reward payoff.

Besides putting their own lives and others at stake, drivers who drink and drive face serious consequences: Loss of license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in costs and possible jail time. Repeat DWI offenders, as well as first-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level, must use ignition interlock in order to regain legal driving privileges or face at least one year without a driver's license. Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.

Don't put it off. Now is the time to have a serious talk with your friends, your children, your spouse, and follow this advice from the State Patrol:

• Plan for a safe ride — designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.

• Speak up — offer to be a designated driver, or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere.

• Buckle up — the best defense against a drunk driver.

• Report drunk driving — call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.

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