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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Sobriety checkpoints will target Scott County throughout month

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Missouri State Patrol Trooper Kyle Wilmont gives a sobriety test.
SIKESTON -- Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper Kyle Wilmont has seen all imaginable when it comes to stopping intoxicated drivers.

Over the past six years Wilmont has witnessed someone break into a dance while trying to perform a field sobriety test. And he's been the target of more than a few belligerent drunks.

But when it comes right down to it, Wilmont, like his fellow officers, said he's out there for simply one reason -- to save lives.

"Our main goal is to remove intoxicated drivers from the roadways and save their lives, their family members and other people on the roads," Wilmont said.

Throughout the month the Patrol's Troop E, in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies, is conducting sobriety checkpoints in Scott and Cape Girardeau counties. Checkpoints will be at locations identified for traffic crashes and arrests involving impaired drivers.

"This is the first of several (checkpoints) we plan to construct in the year. We looked at statistics and accidents that occurred in Troop E and tried to pick the areas most affected. We'll continue them throughout the year," said Sgt. Larry Plunkett Jr., public information officer for Troop E.

While checkpoints typically occur on weekends, it's not uncommon to have them other nights of the week, Plunkett noted. Depending on the weather, another operation to saturate other areas may also take place the same time of the spot checks, he added.

According to Wilmont, motorists will know when they've approached a sobriety checkpoint.

"Signs are set up at the particular checkpoint and numerous officers are on hand to stop every vehicle traveling through the checkpoint," Wilmont explained.

Officers will then ask motorists for their driver's licenses and ask if they have been drinking, Wilmont said.

"If they say 'No, I haven't' and they have been drinking, we can usually smell the odor. It's fairly simple to tell if someone has been drinking," Wilmont said.

For motorists who have been drinking, officers will pull them to the side and conduct a field sobriety test, he said. Typically officers will use three of several standardized tests, which have been validated by the court system, when conducting field sobriety tests. They are horizontal gaze nystagmus, one-leg stand and the walk-and-turn test.

Those who fail the field sobriety test are taken to the "bat van," which is a mobile resource unit and has breath testing instrument inside.

"We do it right then and there and most of the time, depending on the situation, we have them contact someone who is sober and has a valid license to pick them up. If they can't do that, then they're forced to spend the night in jail," Wilmont explained.

Most people are fairly cooperative and don't get mad when they're stopped, Wilmont said.

"And many times people who were negative and upset and belligerent to me will call me the next day and say they're sorry and that they understand," Wilmont added.

Wilmont, who works at Troop E's satellite in Sikeston, has made over 300 driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrests. He recalled one of his worst DWI experiences ever at a checkpoint in Jackson.

"We had an intoxicated female and she didn't stop at the checkpoint and was going nearly 80 mph. She nearly ran over two of us. When she stopped, she said she didn't see the checkpoint -- even though we have signs and it's all lit up," Wilmont recalled.

Those who receive a DWI can expect it to affect their insurance and generally, for first-time offenders, after court costs, it's a minimum of $5,000 out-of-pocket expense. In addition, first-time offenders can lose their licenses for a period of 30 days, Wilmont said.

"If you are in an accident and are intoxicated, instead of driving while intoxicated, you are looking at second degree assault and involuntary manslaughter," Wilmont pointed out.

While .08 percent is the legal amount of intoxication, the actual law states any amount that impairs a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle is considered intoxication, Wilmont said.

Nearly 25 percent off all fatal traffic crashes involve alcohol or drug impaired drivers, that's not acceptable when it means almost 250 lives each year, Plunkett pointed out.

"We simply need the public to help reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents, and really it's up to them to make the right decision," Plunkett said.

Wilmont agreed and said if people are planning to drink, they should get a designated driver.

He added: "People who drink should use common sense and be safe. They should think about their own families and other people's families before driving after drinking."

The Missouri State Highway Patrol encourages anyone who observes careless and imprudent driving that endangers the public, or a driver who they feel may be impaired, to notify local law enforcement or the Patrol immediately. Emergency numbers are *55 for cell phone users and toll-free at 1-800-525-5555.