- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Traffic was heavy yesterday, but the Labor Day weekend went smoothly on area roads, law enforcement officials said.
AAA Mid-Atlantic estimated nearly 500,000 local residents were expecting to travel over the weekend, and D.C. police credited sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols for keeping drunken-driving incidents to a minimum.
As of yesterday morning, police were on pace to make fewer drunken-driving arrests for the holiday weekend compared with last year.
"We're happy to see the lower number of arrests [this year]," said Lt. Patrick Burke, traffic controller for D.C. police. He said officers at checkpoints saw "actually good numbers" of designated drivers, and many residents out drinking Saturday and Sunday night took taxicabs to avoid the checkpoints.
Thirteen persons were arrested for drunken driving Friday night and six were arrested on Saturday night at a police checkpoint in the 200 block of Ninth Street NW.
On Sunday night, officers reported 12 more arrests for drunken driving at other checkpoints around the District. Numbers for last night are to be released today.
Lt. Burke said he believed the numbers were down from last Labor Day weekend because of heavy media attention on police efforts during the past week.
Most of the 31 drivers arrested as of Sunday night were from outside the District, he said.
About 50 motorists were arrested last Labor Day weekend after swerving their vehicles on city roads or failing Breathalyzer tests at police checkpoints.
More than 75 officers put in overtime hours as police set up three sobriety checkpoints over the weekend to arrest drunken motorists as part of a larger effort to curb alcohol- and drug-related traffic fatalities.
Two recently purchased enforcement vans worth $300,000 roved the city, backing up officers at checkpoints. The vans contain equipment needed to gather evidence against drivers with blood alcohol contents above 0.08 percent.
"We have intoxilizers on board each of the vans, and we actually walk drivers right onto the van to have their blood alcohol level tested," Lt. Burke said. "The vans are also useful because they have billboard sides, sending out the message to people that they can get caught."
During last year as a whole, D.C. police arrested 1,847 motorists on charges of driving while intoxicated. Lt. Burke said first-time offenders face $300 fines and up to one year in jail.
"For repeat offenders, or if you're involved in an alcohol-related crash, the penalties are stiffer," he said.
Fifty persons were killed last year in traffic accidents in the District, and nine of the deaths were the result of alcohol-related crashes.
In 1999, 46 persons were killed in D.C. traffic accidents, 14 of whom were involved in alcohol-related crashes, according to statistics compiled for the District by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
No fatal accidents linked to drunken driving in the District were reported over the weekend, but Arlington County police yesterday said they were investigating whether alcohol was involved in the death of a woman on Saturday night.
The woman, whose name was withheld until relatives could be notified, died after her Honda collided with another vehicle at Fairfax Drive and North Glebe Road, county police said.


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