Rice County is among the most dangerous counties for drunk driving in Minnesota according to information provided by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.

Wednesday night the holiday Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) enforcement campaign began statewide.  Authorities call the night before Thanksgiving "Blackout Wednesday" because there is a sharp increase in intoxicated drivers on that night.

Rice County ranks 13th on the list of counties targeted for extra drunk driving enforcement according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.  According to the 2010 Census Rice County was the 13th most populous county.

Tops on the drunk driving list is Hennepin County, Ramsey County is second.  These are the state's two most populous counties.  Dakota ranks 5th (3rd in population), Olmsted 9th (8th in population).

Enhanced DWI enforcement began that evening and runs through December 28th. The Northfield Police Department hosted a kickoff event where Faribault Police Officer Michael Shuda was recognized for making the most Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) arrests over the past TZD grant cycle.

Shuda recorded 21 DWI arrests.  The highest number among all Rice County law enforcement agencies.  This would include the Rice County Sheriff's Office, Northfield, Faribault, Dundas and Lonsdale Police Departments.

The Rice County Sheriff's Office also serves Morristown through a contract with the city.

The totals for Shuda include arrests made both during TZD shifts and while on regular patrol duty.

Between 2014 and 2018, 35 people died in drunk driving related crashes during the holiday DWI extra enforcement period.  There were a total of 412 drunk driving related deaths over those five years.

In 2018 the number of DWI arrests statewide was up over 10 percent from the previous year with 26,825 people getting ticketed for Driving While Intoxicated.

Rice County law enforcement officials encourage you to have a sober designated driver when you know you will be drinking.  If you are hosting a party invite guests to stay at your place for the night to avoid driving drunk or have a sober person take them home.

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