Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - As you hit the roads on this last night of 2012, you'll have company. The Minnesota State Patrol is stepping up enforcement looking for impaired drivers.
It's part of the state's "Toward Zero Death" initiative.
"We're running with four years in a row now where we haven't had a fatality on new year's eve," Capt. Steve Stromback with the Minnesota State Patrol said. "That's nothing to scoff at, on a holiday that's associated with drinking."
No fatalities, but hundreds and hundreds of arrests that lead to possible time in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.
"When a person is arrested for DWI, it doesn't end that night," Capt. Stromback said. "It doesn't end that next morning when they've sobered up."
"At some point you'll probably end up in a jail cell for days," said St. Louis County Chief Judge Shaun Floerke. "Maybe you know come into court a couple of days later, determining whether to set bail. (Then) the court process starts."
The process for a first time offense in Minnesota could end up putting you behind bars for up to 90 days, costing you a thousand dollars in fines and rendering your driver's license useless. There is also the chance your insurance rates will increase and not to mention it could jeopardize your job.
"They are so upset, so mortified, so up heaved about being there and the process," Judge Floerke said. "
He says he'll ask the defendant, "You're not coming back are you?" (They say) 'No way, No way."
Judge Floerke says 67 percent won't come back.
If you find yourself back in court, however, the legal penalties are more extreme for each DWI. But anytime you get behind the wheel after drinking, you put yourself and others at extreme risk, including injury or death.
Officials say it comes down to responsibility and making the right decision.
"If you're out with friends or family, and you see someone has had too much too drink, you're concerned about them, don't let them (drive)," Capt. Stromback stressed. "Intervene."
Tips from Minnesota State Patrol
• Plan for a sober ride — designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.
• Metro Transit is offering free rides on New Year’s Eve from 6 p.m. through the last scheduled trip on buses and light rail.
• Those not planning to drink should let family/friends know they are available to offer a sober ride home.
• Buckle up — the best defenses 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.
Tips from Wisconsin State Patrol:
• Before you start partying, choose a sober designated driver.
• If you’re feeling buzzed, you probably are over the 0.08 (alcohol concentration) limit and should not drive.
• Take mass transit, a taxicab or ask a sober friend to drive you home.
• Don’t allow friends to drive drunk no matter how much they protest.
• Some taverns and restaurants have programs to provide patrons with a safe ride home.