- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2000

District of Columbia police are rewarding sober drivers with Washington Wizards basketball tickets and handing drunken drivers hefty fines this New Year's weekend.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County, Md., police will dispatch "saturation patrols" to look for erratic drivers, while Alexandria, Va., police will maintain a strong presence in Old Town.

"We realize that drinking and driving is still a major problem," said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell.

"We're trying to do what we can to increase visibility of state police and law enforcement on the roads, but obviously what it all comes down to is personal choice."

Last year during the holiday, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reported 147 traffic deaths nationwide, half of which were alcohol-related.

Virginia and Maryland state police, like many of the local law enforcement agencies, will dispatch extra officers to enforce drunken-driving prohibitions.

"If you get caught, you're going to be arrested, period," said Cpl. Rob Moroney, a Maryland State Police spokesman.

He noted that Maryland State Police troopers made 4,281 arrests for driving while intoxicated last December and January, and 2,430 of those arrested had their driver's licenses confiscated.

Metropolitan Police officers will stop motorists at sobriety checkpoints today and tomorrow from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.

In keeping with the season, a member of the department will be outfitted in a Santa Claus suit. He will hand out 250 donated basketball tickets as a reward to sober motorists.

In Montgomery County, police will be popping into restaurants and bars to make sure minors and those intoxicated are not being served. Already this month, they have issued 42 citations for such violations.

Traffic squads will be working evening hours to watch for swerving vehicles and unsteady drivers.

"If you plan on driving, don't drink, or make other arrangements," said Sgt. Dave Falcinelli of the department's alcohol initiatives section.

For the first time in several years, Alexandria is not holding its alcohol-free "First Night Alexandria" event, said police spokeswoman Amy Bertsch.

But officers will maintain a "high visibility in the community and in Old Town," she said.

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) again is sponsoring SoberRide, a holiday program that provides free taxi rides home for anyone 21 or older too impaired to drive.

Callers may dial 800/200-TAXI, or #TAXI on any AT&T; wireless phone; riders must pay for any amount of the fare that exceeds $50.

This month, WRAP released a report stating that alcohol-related traffic deaths increased in the Washington area by 5 percent between 1998 and 1999, ending a steady four-year decline in such figures.

"To put this into perspective, more Washingtonians were arrested for drunk driving last year than the total populations of Falls Church, Glen Echo, Kensington, Middleburg, Quantico and Upper Marlboro combined," said WRAP Executive Director Kurt Gregory Erickson.

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