Rice County is participating in a campaign to keep impaired drivers off the roads this holiday season. The campaign started Nov. 23 and runs weekends through Dec. 30.

According to the Department of Public Safety, Christmas has the second-highest percentage of drunk driving-related fatalities (35.3 percent) during a major holiday period, followed by Thanksgiving (33.3 percent). The July 4 holiday has the highest percentage at 45.5 percent.

More than 300 agencies will be working overtime with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More than 400 arrests were made during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend statewide.

It appears that drivers are getting the message during the holidays, as November (1,931) and December (1,876) were the months with the lowest number of DWI arrests in 2015.

Here are some consequences to being arrested for a DWI.

  • Loss of license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in costs and possible jail time.
  • Repeat DWI offenders, as well as first-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level, must use ignition interlock in order to regain legal driving privileges or face at least one year without a driver’s license.
  • Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.

Here are some drunk driving prevention tips:

  • Plan for a safe ride — designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.
  • Speak up — offer to be a designated driver, or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere.
  • Buckle up — the best defense 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.

Some of the local agencies participating in the statewide campaign are the Dundas, Faribault, Northfield police departments, the Rice County Sheriff’s Office, Steele County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota State Patrol.