Drunken-driving crackdown set for Eastern Panhandle

December 14, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION


West Virginia State Police in the Eastern Panhandle say they have made more than 600 drunken-driving arrests this year, nearly triple the number of driving-under-the-influence arrests that have been made in other state police districts in West Virginia.

As a result, local police say they plan to begin cracking down on the problem, starting with a sobriety checkpoint this weekend in Martinsburg, W.Va., which will be conducted by the state police, the Martinsburg Police Department and the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

The checkpoint will be conducted on Edwin Miller Boulevard and will start at 11 p.m. Saturday and run until 5 a.m. Sunday, according to a state police press release.


The 600 drunken-driving arrests have occurred in the state police's Troop 2 district, which includes Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, 1st Sgt. L.M. Lambert said Tuesday.

Lambert said the 600 arrests are an increase over the number in Troop 2 last year, although she could not say by how many.

Police said the high number of drunken-driving arrests could be partly attributed to the number of people who cross the state line into the Eastern Panhandle after bars in neighboring states have closed.

"I think they are a little more reluctant to rent a taxi or call a friend if they are farther from home," Sgt. C.C. Morton said.

Bars in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania stop serving alcohol one to two hours before nightclubs in West Virginia, who can serve until 3:30 a.m., said Del. Vic Roberts, R-Berkeley, who is trying to get a state law passed that allows county government to regulate how late bars can sell alcohol.

Intoxicated people from other states often come to local bars and become involved in incidents that result in property damage and injuries, Roberts recently told the Berkeley County Commission.

Roberts and three other lawmakers introduced a bill last year in the Legislature that would allow counties to control closing times for bars, but it did not pass.

Roberts has said he plans to seek passage of the bill again in the upcoming session of the Legislature, which starts Jan. 11.

Under last year's bill, county commissions in counties that border other states would be allowed to set a closing time for bars that is no later than closing times in other states.

The alternate routes for Saturday's drunken-driving checkpoint will be U.S. 11 north, Eagle School Road, Interstate 81 and Warm Springs Avenue.

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