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Designate O'Driver for St. Patrick's

WORTHINGTON -- What does St. Patrick's Day mean to most people? Leprechauns wearing funny hats, carrying a shillelagh and bearing pots of gold, four-leaf clovers, corned beef with cabbage and green beer.

It's the last one that causes problems.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 103 people died on St. Patrick's Day 2009 because of vehicle crashes.

Forty-seven people were killed in crashes that involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more.

Law enforcement officials are expecting to see a spike in St. Patrick's Day revelry because the March 17 date falls on a Saturday this year.

That's why they are asking celebrators to have a plan for a safe and sober ride.

"We will be out in force on St. Patrick's Day to arrest impaired drivers," said Sgt. Kathy Pederson of the Minnesota State Patrol. "We know there are plenty of people out there who have driven impaired and not been caught. To them (our) message is simple: all it takes is one time -- one arrest, one crash -- to turn your life upside down and change or end the life of innocent others. Don't risk it."

Impaired driving is a threat on Minnesota roads, and the more people play an active role in keeping roads safe, the safer everyone will be.

"Plan ahead for a safe and sober ride home, and make sure your friends do the same," Pederson advised.

A DWI is a serious crime with serious consequences -- first-time offenders can lose their license for up to a year, face thousands of dollars in legal fees and increased insurance, and possibly do jail time.

Each year, alcohol-related crashes account for 140 deaths and more than 30,000 arrests for driving while impaired.

Traffic crashes in Minnesota claimed the lives of 349 people in 2011 -- a 38 percent reduction in deaths since 2001. But at this time last year, there had been 38 fatalities. So far in 2012, 56 people have died in Minnesota due to traffic crashes.