2 DUI arrests made Saturday night
Number of contacts: 100
DUI Arrests: 1
Activity during saturation patrol:
DUI Arrests: 1
Other: 3 summons for underage drinking; 1 summons for obstructing a police officer
When Makeysha Slaugh, of Craig, was asked to step out of her vehicle Saturday night, she wasn’t concerned. She wasn’t worried about the flashing lights or the state troopers shining flashlights at her and asking questions.
Slaugh was confident she had made the right decision not to drink that night in downtown Craig. That’s exactly the kind of thinking the Checkpoint Colorado sobriety checkpoint hoped to encourage.
“Lots of people drink and drive,” Slaugh said. “They go out, they get over-served, and they still drive.”
But Slaugh made sure her five friends in the car wouldn’t be among those driving under the influence Saturday night.
The checkpoint, a combined effort of the Colorado State Patrol, the Craig Police Department and Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, began at 10 p.m. on U.S. Highway 40, between Breeze and School streets. All traffic was diverted into the Moffat County Courthouse parking lot, where four lanes had been set up with cones.
Law enforcement were stationed at each of the lanes and questioned the driver of each vehicle. They asked for a driver’s license and took measures to ensure the driver was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A common tactic is to ask questions close to the driver’s face to check for the smell of alcohol. Sometimes, the trooper would separate the driver from the passengers in the car.
Law enforcement also looked for signs of drug use, assessing reaction times and checking pupils for dilation or constriction.
State Trooper Brett Hilling, a certified Drug Recognition Evaluation expert, said there are many ways to tell whether a driver is under the influence of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamines.
“Marijuana actually burns hotter than cigarettes,” Hilling said. “You can actually see the blisters on the back of the tongue, if someone has recently smoked marijuana, that cigarettes don’t cause.”
At Saturday’s checkpoint, no one was cited for driving under the influence of drugs.
One DUI arrest was made during the checkpoint, which ended early because of rain. The patrollers then focused their efforts on saturation patrol, meaning law enforcement roved the streets making traffic stops.
After the checkpoint, police made one more DUI arrest and issued three summons for underage drinking.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation funded Checkpoint Colorado, the name for the collaborative effort of state, county and city law enforcement to stop drunk driving.
The overtime hours didn’t bother any of the law enforcement officers, who all agreed that the checkpoint is a good opportunity for the different departments to catch up with one another.
“It’s so rare we are all together in the same place,” said Scott Elliott, a sergeant with the Colorado State Patrol. “So, we like to have fun with it.”
State Patrol from Steamboat Springs, Kremmling, Meeker and Craig, joined with the Craig Police Department and Moffat County Sheriff’s Office to conduct the checkpoint.
Hilling said at any given time of day, almost one in 10 drivers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“We kill an average of 17,500 people a year in drunk driving-related crashes,” he said. “More people have died in drunk driving accidents than all of the American war casualties combined.”
If drunk driving were not an issue, State Patrol Captain Rich Munroe said, the only two traffic fatalities this year in Moffat County would never have happened. And that is what Saturday’s effort attempted to prevent.
“These checkpoints are a huge psychological deterrent for the community,” Munroe said in a briefing before the checkpoint. “Historically, we don’t get a lot of arrests. But we have a lot of people going to Whittle the Wood today, and that’s the person who might stop and think, ‘Hey, maybe I should get a ride.’ We’re trying to help the citizens make decisions.”
Elliott said the checkpoints are meant to make people stop, think and make informed decisions. They’re not designed to make as many arrests as possible.
The Supreme Court requires that warning signs be placed before the checkpoint so that drivers have the opportunity to turn off and avoid the checkpoint, protecting citizens against illegal search and seizure, the subject of the Fourth Amendment.
But Elliott said the DUI checkpoint still is an invaluable weapon in the fight against drunk driving.
“Even if we don’t catch anyone, it’s still a success,” Elliott said. “It’s really a public relations campaign. We want people to think about getting rides or having designated drivers.”
Tod Lampman, of Craig, was stopped at the checkpoint Saturday night but wasn’t concerned about being detained.
“It’s a good thing, what they’re doing,” he said. “They’ll probably save lives. No matter what they do, if they pass laws or arrest people, people will still be idiots and drive drunk. But maybe tonight, they’ll stop someone who might have killed someone.”
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