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police ready for new year's drunken drivers

December 30, 1998|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Motorists who drive drunk in the early hours of the New Year might find the police waiting around the next corner.

Local law enforcement agencies are vowing zero tolerance for drunken drivers on New Year's Eve and the hours after midnight.

Both Maryland State Police and the Washington County Sheriff's Department will have at least eight officers, for a total of 16, on the road.

"Unfortunately each New Year's Eve holiday there are many persons who make a choice to drink alcoholic beverages and then get behind the wheel of an automobile," said state police Superintendent David B. Mitchell in a prepared statement. "There will be no excuses accepted and those who violate the law will be arrested."

Sgt. Terry Hill of the state police barracks in Hagerstown said four extra troopers will join the four on regular patrol. Lt. Doug Mullendore said the same is true of the sheriff's department.

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Hagerstown City Police will not have officers on special duty, according to Lt. John Moulton.

But those officers on regular patrol will be looking for reckless driving, speeding, swerving or any indication of intoxication.

"Officers tend to be more alert to that particular offense," Moulton said.

Even if you're sober or a passenger, roaming the roads before the new year dawns can be dangerous or deadly. Last year, a Woodbridge, Va., woman died as the result of a traffic accident in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.. a man driving a pickup truck involved in that accident was charged with DWI.

"Always be cognizant of the other drivers," said Mullendore. "Even if you're being safe, they may not be."

Mullendore recommended using a designated driver. Sgt. Hill agreed. He said sober people drive more defensively.

"That's the whole thing with alcohol: People drink and they think they can drive and they can't," he said.

A blood alcohol level of .10 or higher is evidence of intoxication in Maryland. Last year, state police charged 25,000 people with driving drunk.

"Whatever you do, don't think you can get behind the wheel and drive home safely if you've been drinking," Mitchell said.

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