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Cold temps on tap for New Year's Eve, officials urge caution

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BEMIDJI -- Minnesotans are facing more than DWI arrests this New Year’s Eve. Lingering frigidity will ring in 2014 and will continue most of the next week.

“Nobody wants to stand outside and wait for a cab in 25 below zero,” said Sgt. Dave Markert of the Bemidji Police Department on Tuesday. “We encourage people to plan ahead for a sober ride before going out.”

Markert coordinates the department’s Toward Zero Deaths program, which focuses on DWI, seatbelt usage, speed and distracted driving.

Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said one of the biggest problems the sheriff’s office faces is people going into the ditch and trying to walk for help.

“When it’s really cold like this, events can end tragically if they get out of their car,” Hodapp said. “At the same time, if their cell phones don’t work, we don’t know they need help.”

Hodapp added that speed limits are higher and people tend to drive faster in the outlying areas of the 3,000 square-mile county than they do in town. He advises people to drive accordingly for the road conditions as accident injuries are often worse at higher rates of speed.

Cold coupled with careless driving could have dire consequences. Wind chill advisories with 40 below temperatures and hazardous weather outlooks are on the horizon. Travel outdoors is not advised, but if people do venture out into the elements they should dress for the weather.

Each year, dozens of Americans die from exposure to the cold, according to the National Weather Service. Frostbite can occur within 30 minutes in a windchill of 20-below-zero weather.

Although the holiday season has come to a close, law enforcement will continue efforts to deter drunk drivers. The Drive Sober or Get Pulled over campaign wrapped up Dec. 28.

In 2012, more than 28,000 people were arrested for drinking and driving.

People planning to drink alcohol while out should plan for a designated driver or make preparations to call a cab.

“We appreciate when people celebrate responsibly,” Hodapp said.

Both taxicab companies in Bemidji will be running two cabs on New Year’s Eve. Bemidji Cab and 1st City Taxi offer cab service seven days a week.

1st City Taxi previously ran a Safe Ride program in which a sober ride would be offered between 10 p.m. and  1:30 a.m. for a flat $5 fee. The company has since discontinued that practice to remain competitive in the city. Rides from both companies are gauged by meter.

Bemidji Cab can be reached at (218) 759-1368 and 1st City Taxi can be reached by calling (218) 444-TAXI. Both companies have extended hours on the weekends to accommodate the bar crowd. Bemidji Cab runs until about 3 a.m and 1st City wraps up at about 2:30 a.m.

If a suspected drunk driver is spotted, it should be reported to the Bemidji Police Department and Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office at (218) 333-9111.

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Crystal Dey
Crystal Dey covers crime, courts and Beltrami county government for The Bemidji Pioneer. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey has worked for the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota, The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Florida, the Hartford Courant in Hartford and West Hartford News in West Hartford, Connecticut. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.
(218) 333-9200 x343
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