Law enforcement will be keeping a sharp eye out for drunk drivers on St. Patrick’s Day.

Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunken driving in the nation, and even the luck of the Irish won’t protect you from being arrested if you drive while impaired.

“We have nearly 40,000 drunk driving convictions in Wisconsin every year.”

Dennis Hughes is chief of safety programs for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Safety. In 2008, about 40 percent of all fatal traffic crashes in Wisconsin were alcohol-related, according to the DOT, killing 234 people and injuring more than 4,000.

“Drinking and driving is taken very seriously in Wisconsin and there’s no second chances.”

Hughes says someone is killed or injured in an alcohol-related crash every 90 minutes in Wisconsin. So, before you party, choose a designated, sober driver — select mass transit, a taxi or a friend.

“If you can plan to drink, you can certainly plan to get home.”

Some taverns and restaurants offer safe rides home.

A first offense OWI fine is up to $300, a 9-month license suspension, and six demerit points. And then, Hughes says, there is the additional expense of higher insurance rates, alcohol assessment, and the fee to restore your license — that’s if you’re lucky.

The DOT says last year in Wisconsin, there were no deaths in traffic crashes on St. Patrick’s Day, and they hope for the same outcome this year.

Jackie Johnson report 1:47

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