Local law enforcement on alert for drunken drivers

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Austin police and Mower County Sheriff’s deputies are trying to ensure area residents celebrate the holidays by planning a sober ride.

Together, the two law enforcement agencies arrested 14 people for DWI from Dec. 1 to 19, according to police Capt. Dave McKichan. The effort is part of a statewide crackdown on drunken drivers through New Year’s Eve.

Throughout Minnesota, 823 drivers were arrested for DWI between Dec. 1 to 11. Austin police and Mower County Sheriff’s deputies had increased DWI patrols during that time. McKichan said there were 11 extra patrol shifts at six hours each.

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Although there won’t be extra patrols in Mower County on New Year’s Eve weekend, McKichan cautioned drivers to be safe and plan for a sober ride. He said officers will be on heightened alert for potential drunken driving that night.

“It is one of those nights that we do tend to scrutinize traffic behavior a little closer than most nights,” McKichan said. “It’s a large celebratory night and, as always, we encourage people to get a sober driver or utilize the taxi service.

“We want everyone who is out celebrating to make it home safely.”

From Dec. 23 until the end of January, a red bus called “The Big Red Ride” will be available for sober rides from Austin bars on Friday and Saturday nights. According to the “Big-Red Ride-Home” Facebook page, the bus will stop at each of Austin’s 13 bars on Friday and Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. Riders can tell the driver where they want to go within the city limits and get rides for free. The bus is a project of Big Ride Home LLC out of Maple Grove.

“The bus will run completely free, and funded by us until the end of January, at which time we will compile passenger data, bus use, and approach the local liquor industry with a creative plan to pay for the bus’ continued use in Austin,” the bus’ Facebook page states.