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Fargo named fifth-drunkest city in nation

It may not be one of Fargo's proudest moments. In the December issue of Men's Health magazine, Fargo was named the fifth-drunkest city in America, earning the dubious honor among the "most dangerously drunk" cities from the magazine. Denver was a...

It may not be one of Fargo's proudest moments.

In the December issue of Men's Health magazine, Fargo was named the fifth-drunkest city in America, earning the dubious honor among the "most dangerously drunk" cities from the magazine.

Denver was at the top of the list, followed by Anchorage, Alaska, Colorado Springs, Colo., Omaha, Neb., and Fargo.

Men's Health ranked cities based on a number of factors, including annual death rates due to alcoholic liver disease, drunk-driving arrests and the percentage of fatal accidents involving intoxicated drivers.

The magazine drew its statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

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Robyn Litke, coordinator of the Safe Communities Coalition of the Red River Valley, said being billed as an extraordinarily drunken city should serve as a wake-up call for North Dakotans who tip the bottle back far too often.

"We need to look at this as the problem that it is, instead of the bragging right that people tend to tack on with this," said Litke, whose group is a nonprofit organization devoted to traffic safety and limiting youth access of alcohol. "I think we need an entire cultural shift."

Relaxed attitudes toward underage and binge drinking have created an overly accepting culture in North Dakota, Litke said.

"You'll find parents that don't see any problem at all with providing alcohol to their underage children," she said.

Hal Gershman, owner of Happy Harry's Bottle Shops in Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D., said he wasn't happy to hear about the "unfortunate" designation.

"You never like to see that," he said. "Certainly those of us that are in the industry don't take any solace seeing something like that."

Gershman's liquor stores began posting notices encouraging responsible drinking in 1988.

"We were one of the first liquor stores to begin posting signs saying, 'Please use our products in moderation,'" Gershman said. "We take it very seriously."

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The liquor industry has been making a conscious effort to curb underage and binge drinking, which he sees as a societal issue, Gershman said.

In a town that boasts more than 20,000 college students, binge drinking is typically a common occurrence, said Cole Carley, president of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention Visitors Bureau.

"Not to paint all college students with the same brush, but binge drinking tends to happen with a younger demographic," Carley said.

A 2005 Core Alcohol and Drug Survey found that 56 percent of North Dakota State University students engaged in binge drinking in the previous two weeks.

The survey defined binge drinking as five or more drinks in one sitting.

Both Litke and Carley applauded local law enforcement agencies for cracking down on DUI arrests and sobriety checkpoints. Statistics on DUI arrest rates attributed to the ranking of the report's drunkest cities.

Carley said it should be noted that Fargo-Moorhead has consistently earned high marks in more palatable categories, such as a recent third-place ranking by Self Magazine for a community where women are the most happy.

"We get ranked so high on so many other things," he said.

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City rankings

Men's Health magazine used several factors in ranking cities for dangerous drinking behavior.

Most dangerously drunk

- 1 Denver

- 2 Anchorage, Alaska

- 3 Colorado Springs, Colo.

- 4 Omaha, Neb.

- 5 Fargo

- 6 San Antonio

- 7 Austin, Texas

- 8 Fresno, Calif.

- 9 Lubbock, Texas

- 10 Milwaukee

Least dangerously drunk

- 10 Jersey City, N.J.

- 9 Richmond, Va.

- 8 New York

- 7 Little Rock, Ark.

- 6 Salt Lake City

- 5 Yonkers, N.Y.

- 4 Jackson, Miss.

- 3 Buffalo, N.Y.

- 2 Miami

- 1 Durham, N.C.

Source: Men's Health magazine, www.menshealth.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kim Winnegge at (701) 241-5524 Fargo named fifth-drunkest city in nation Kim Winnegge 20071205

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