Sobriety checkpoints will be conducted throughout state
POPLAR BLUFF -- From the end of the month through the end of the year, the Missouri State Highway Patrol will conduct sobriety checkpoints across the state, and in particularly in Southeast Missouri.
"We're entering the time of year where more people are using the roadways and mixing drinking into their daily activities," said Sgt. Larry Plunkett, public information officer for Missouri State Highway Patrol's Troop E.
With the increased use of intoxicants, there will naturally be more instances of abuse on the highways, explained Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. P.C. Baird, commanding officer of Troop E. The highway patrol intends to remove as many impaired drivers from Missouri's roadways as possible before someone else is hurt or killed, he said.
"We also know high school and college kids are at the end of the school year," Plunkett said. "And unfortunately, statistics show there's an increased use of alcohol during these times."
Sobriety checkpoints are a commonly used detection method by law enforcement across the United States, but focus on awareness, education and prevention is the primary objective.
"We're not trying to be mean or unfair," Plunkett said about conducting sobriety checkpoints. "We're just concentrating on preventing injury and fatality."
Baird recently announced the troop's plans to conduct a series of DWI sobriety checkpoints in the 13-county area of Southeast Missouri, which includes Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard counties. The checkpoints are to be held at previously determined locations, identified as having a large number of alcohol-related traffic crashes.
The patrol will have at least 10-15 officers in one specific area and they will make nondiscretionary stops, Plunkett noted. Blood alcohol testing will be administered when necessary.
In 2001, a total of 266 people were killed on Missouri's highways in alcohol-related traffic crashes. Intoxicated drivers contributed to nearly 25 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state and over 6,000 additional injuries. The statistics also indicate alcohol contributed to 8,393 traffic crashes in Missouri during the same year.
Baird said the mission of the highway patrol hinges on providing service and protection to the citizens of Missouri. He advised that sobriety checkpoints have proven to be an efficient use of the Patrol's manpower, a vital consideration due to the State's shortage of nearly 130 trained troopers.
"Visibility is a huge factor in deterring drinking and driving and in determining the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints," Plunkett said. "Generally, when officers are seen, it tends to prevent people from drinking and driving."
Plunkett added the patrol can give more attention to the drinking and driving problem and focus on concentrated areas with more officers during the sobriety check points.
Baird stated that driving while intoxicated is a serious problem in the area -- much more than most people realize. "I believe citizens would be surprised to know that troopers in the area made 1,490 arrests for driving under the influence in 2002," he said. "Enforcement of the DWI laws is crucial to protecting our community."
However, if people are going to drink, there are a few things they should keep in mind.
"Always make a plan ahead of time," Plunkett suggested. "Make sure you have a facility to stay at or travel with a nondrinking driver. The biggest thing to remember is to not drive at all after you've been drinking."
The Missouri State Highway Patrol encourages anyone who observes an intoxicated or erratic driver to please contact the Patrol's Emergency Report Line at 1-800-525-5555 or *55 on a cellular phone.