Holiday cheer spreading safely

December 21, 1997

Holiday cheer spreading safely


Staff Writer

Maryland State Police arrested 13 drunken drivers in Washington and Frederick counties on Friday and Saturday as part of a statewide effort that resulted in almost 3,700 traffic citations and warnings, authorities said.

Officials said drivers can expect special enforcement efforts to last through the end of the holiday season, as police attempt to prepare for increased holiday traffic. Efforts in Washington County will include more troopers working overtime and a sobriety checkpoint.

More than 325 police officers from across the state participated in Operation Holiday Cheer, which used federal funds to pay for overtime officers.


Lt. Donnie Knott, commander of the Hagerstown barracks, said 14 troopers working overtime between 6 p.m. Friday and 2 a.m. Saturday concentrated on interstates 70 and 81 for the first four hours and then spread out to secondary roads.

"Most of the other roads are just as important, if not more important," he said.

The Hagerstown barracks issued 178 traffic tickets during the period and charged six drivers with DWI, according to statistics provided by police. They also issued 50 warnings for offenses ranging from speeding to seat belt violations.

Knott said Friday night was an ideal time for the program.

"This was the prime time for office parties and after-work get-togethers," he said.

Twelve troopers worked overtime during "Holiday Cheer" in Frederick County, where police issued 86 traffic citations, police said. Troopers also charged seven drivers with DWI and three people with possession of marijuana, police said.

"Very successful," declared Sgt. Kevin Gardner. "The troopers were dedicated to this extra program. Normally, especially on a Friday, we get quite a few people calling in on cell phones to report aggressive driving," he said.

But Gardner said police only received two calls during the operation.

Motorists likely will see more police cars during the next two weeks as various programs seek to beef up traffic enforcement during the holidays.

A weekend program called the National Holiday Life Saver Weekend, for instance, ran through Sunday, police said.

Knott said police also received a grant from the Washington County Health Department to pay for overtime patrols. He said the 100 hours will be spread throughout the rest of the season.

Knott said police intend to set up a sobriety checkpoint in the Hagerstown area sometime during the next two weeks.

During the checkpoint - a tool that has not been used by state police in Washington County in at least a year - troopers will pull over cars in a search for drunken drivers, Knott said.

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