In an effort to keep roadways in our community safe from intoxicated drivers this St. Patrick's Day, the Charles County Sheriff's Office will conduct a sobriety checkpoint on March 17 from 7 p.m. to midnight.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 48 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2004 that occurred during the evening of St. Patrick's Day and into the early hours of the following morning involved drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .01 or higher. Of those crashes, a vast majority were crashes where a driver's BAC was .08 or higher, the illegal limit in all states, including the District of Columbia. Officials fear the risk this year could be higher because St. Patrick's Day will be celebrated on a Friday night.
"We know there are a lot of people who consume alcohol while celebrating St. Patrick's Day and we want them to make the right decision and designate a sober driver," said Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis. "For those who choose to get behind the while after having too much to drink, they risk getting caught in our checkpoint or even worse, being involved in a crash that would kill or seriously injure themselves or others. It's not a risk worth taking." Officers will check all vehicles that pass through the checkpoint and drivers who are found to be intoxicated will be arrested. The Sheriff's Office is not disclosing the location of the checkpoint but signs on the roadway will advise motorists as they approach it. Delays for motorists are expected to be minimal.
The Sheriff's Office is also distributing posters with an anti-drinking-and-driving message to local bars, restaurants and other establishments that will draw a St. Patrick's Day crowd. The Sheriff's Office is appreciative of the efforts of those businesses to promote sober driving.
Safe Rides, a LifeStyles, Inc., program that gives free rides in the county to people who have had too much to drink, will operate from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. on St. Patrick's Day. Those who find they are in need of this service should call 1-866-293-0623 between those hours to arrange for a ride.
Sober drivers can also help keep intoxicated drivers off the roadways by notifying the Sheriff's Office at 301-932-2222 in La Plata, 301-743-2222 in Indian Head or 301-932-7777 in Waldorf if they suspect a driver intoxicated. Be sure to provide a good description of the vehicle, including make, model, color, tag number, location and direction of travel. In an emergency, dial 9-1-1.
The checkpoint, posters and other efforts are part of continued efforts by local law enforcement to maintain safe roadways in our community. In 2005, the Sheriff's Office increased enforcement efforts and public education about traffic safety in response to a record high number of traffic fatalities; forty people were killed in 34 crashes on Charles County roads. So far this year, four people have died as many crashes - three of which were alcohol-related - and the Sheriff's Office and the Maryland State Police have arrested 138 intoxicated drivers. As part of continued traffic safety efforts, citizens can now report non-emergency traffic safety concerns via the Sheriff's Office's Web site, http://www.ccso.us/. Additionally, in January, the Charles County Commissioners declared 2006 as Traffic Safety Awareness Year in Charles County in support of the continued efforts of local law enforcement to enforce traffic laws and encourage motorists to practice safe driving behavior and make responsible decisions.