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Sobriety checkpoints encourage safe driving

April 30, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN

Whether to drink or not is a question some drivers face on weekends, and local law enforcement agencies are using sobriety checkpoints to encourage drivers to make the right choices.

"The purpose is not to see how many intoxicated drivers we can arrest. It's all about education," Sgt. Daniel Faith of the Washington County Sheriff's Department said.

The Hagerstown Police Department charged three drivers with driving under the influence and one juvenile with a drug violation during a sobriety checkpoint over the weekend. The checkpoint was operated in the 600 block of Virginia Avenue from Friday at 10 p.m. to Saturday at 3 a.m., according to a news release.

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The Hagerstown Police Department plans another sobriety checkpoint at an undisclosed location the weekend of May 5, police said.

For police, a successful sobriety checkpoint generates no arrests, Sgt. Johnny L. Murray of the Hagerstown Police Department said.

A sobriety checkpoint in which no arrests are made is successful because it shows people used designated drivers, Murray said.

The Hagerstown Police Department tries to schedule about two checkpoints each month. The checkpoints are publicized through local media outlets because police want drivers to make arrangements for desginated drivers, or to call a cab if they plan to drink, Murray said.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department sets up sobriety checkpoints during the warmer months, Faith said. Warmer months are better for the checkpoints for officer safety reasons, he said.

Officer overtime pay and supplies for the checkpoints are paid for by state-funded grants, Faith said.

Deputies pass out pamphlets about safe driving during the checkpoints.

"It's an education thing for the public," he said.

The sheriff's department also publicizes checkpoints ahead of time.

"We don't want to trick the public," Faith said.

Signs are posted along roadways leading to checkpoints. By the time drivers pass through the checkpoint, there is no excuse not to know, he said.

Maryland State Police occasionally work with the sheriff's department to set up sobriety checkpoints, 1st Sgt. David Kloos said.

The state police use federal grant money set aside for sobriety enforcement, he said.

Checkpoints show drivers that police are checking for drunk drivers, Kloos said.

"We want the public to know we're out there," he said.

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