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Area police plan to beef up sobriety patrols

August 18, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Perhaps you have seen the occasional sobriety checkpoint along a highway where police stop cars and check for drunken drivers.

Now comes the latest effort, where West Virginia State Police plan to have dozens of troopers filtering throughout the Eastern Panhandle through early September looking for drunken drivers.

Authorities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Washington, D.C., also plan to participate.

Dubbed "Operation Night Hawk," the effort centers around Labor Day, one of four holidays during the year when police typically see more drunken driving, said 1st Sgt. Lisa Lambert, who is stationed in the Charles Town state police detachment.

The other holidays are Memorial Day, Fourth of July and New Year's Eve.

The development of "Operation Night Hawk" comes after there were several drunken driving-related fatalities in West Virginia around the Labor Day weekend last year, Lambert said.

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During "Operation Night Hawk," which will run today to Sept. 4, there will be at least four days where about a dozen troopers will be on local roads in Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties looking for drunken drivers, Lambert said.

There also will be underage drinking stings and a sobriety checkpoint along W.Va. 9 in Kearneysville, W.Va., from Sept. 1 at 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next day, Lambert said.

Also on that day, about 15 troopers will fan out across the three-county area in search of drunken drivers, Lambert said.

About 15 troopers at a time will search for drunken drivers today, Saturday and Sunday, Lambert said. From Aug. 21-31, state police hope to have four to six troopers in the three counties looking for drunken drivers, among other drunken driving reduction efforts, Lambert said.

There also will be extra drunken driving patrols on Labor Day, Lambert said.

Authorities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Washington, D.C. will develop their own drunken driving crackdowns, Lambert said.

Maryland State Police 1st Sgt. Russell Newell said state police are participating in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sponsored operation called "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest" from Aug. 18 through Sept. 4.

That part of summer was targeted, Newell said, because of the increased traffic on roads, in part because students are returning to schools and colleges.

"There are a lot of travelers with a lot of things on their mind and we want to make sure they're traveling safely," he said.

Between 24,000 and 25,000 people die per year in drunken driving-related accidents, Newell said.

Many advertisements in conjunction with the operation will be directed at men between the ages of 21 and 34, he said.

"Unfortunately, that age group is involved in so many fatal crashes," Newell said.

Staff writer Pepper Ballard contributed to this story.

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