- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

Law-enforcement and safety agencies from around the region hope that a coordinated campaign of weekly checkpoints and sobriety patrols will help take more drunken drivers off the roads.
Under the program, to be discussed at a press conference today, thousands of state and local police will for the first time work together to operate more than 450 sobriety checkpoints in the District, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Police will operate at least one checkpoint per week in each jurisdiction for the next six months, as part of the "Checkpoint Strikeforce You Drink and Drive. You Lose" program.
Organizers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) say the program is the first regional effort of its kind. It begins in time for the Fourth of July holiday one of the worst days for alcohol-related car accidents.
Cpl. Rob Moroney, a spokesman, said the Maryland State Police have operated 16 checkpoints so far this year and plan to add 53 more.
While practices will vary among jurisdictions, drivers in the District will see patrol cars and signs instructing them to pull over, said Lt. Patrick Burke, traffic coordinator for the Metropolitan Police Department. A line of officers will interview drivers, and those suspected of driving under the influence will be given field sobriety tests.
Traffic delays are not a concern, he said, because the stops generally are conducted at night when there is lower traffic volume. And if a backup begins to develop, officers will start waving cars through, he said.
Police also will increase sobriety patrols units that drive the roads looking for drivers exhibiting erratic behavior.
Organizers hope the program will help halt a recent rise in alcohol-related crashes. In 2000, 1,438 persons in the region died as a result of impaired-driving crashes. According to a NHTSA survey, 80 percent of Americans support increased enforcement and tougher laws on drunken driving.
The collaboration among police departments is crucial to the program's success, Lt. Burke said. "I think it sends a strong message that these checkpoints could be out there anywhere, anytime," he said.



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