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Heightened enforcement over Thanksgiving weekend

WORTHINGTON -- Last year during the Thanksgiving travel period, 16 motorists were killed and 1,834 arrested for driving while impaired. Of the 16 deaths, six were alcohol-related and seven were unbelted occupants, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Added servings of DWI enforcement will be dished out this year during Thanksgiving -- historically one of the year's deadliest holiday travel times.

Extra enforcement will begin tonight and continue through the weekend.

"We want to remind drivers of the hazards of holiday driving," said Minnesota State Patrol Captain Brian West. "Troopers want to make your safety a priority during this time."

The MSP and partnering local law enforcement agencies will increase their presence on the road with the intent to identify and apprehend impaired drivers before they can seriously injure or kill other motorists.

"Our goal is to reduce crashes and injuries," West said. "We will be addressing the most commonly occurring violations -- seatbelts, speed and impaired driving."

The DPS offers these simple tips to help ensure traffic safety: Buckle up, plan for enough travel time to avoid the urge to speed and plan for a safe and sober ride if drinking is planned. Pay attention, the DPS encourages, because Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel periods.

The 2011 deaths to date includes drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

"This demonstrates how deadly Minnesota roads can be, and these tragedies reinforce how vital it is to be focused behind the wheel and make safe, smart decisions," West said. "We want families intact on the Monday after Thanksgiving."

The DWI enforcement and education effort is a component of the state's Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety program.

A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior.

TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes -- education, enforcement, engineering ad emergency response trauma response.