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Monday, Sep. 26, 2016

Keeping the highways safe from drunk drivers

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Detective George Daoud, with the Monett Police Department, conducted a field sobriety test on one suspect who was stopped at last weekend's DWI checkpoint in Monett. The suspect was given the three standard field sobriety tests, which included: standing on one foot for a 30-count; walking a straight line, turning and walking back; and the following the officer's finger with his eyes. Following the field tests, the man was taken into a command post vehicle and given a breathalyzer test, which he failed. [Times Photo by Melonie Roberts]
A total of nine officers from the Monett Police Department and the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department ran a driving while intoxicated (DWI) checkpoint on Aug. 20, resulting in only one arrest for minor in possession of alcohol.

The young man arrested was in possession of 27 Coronas and a half-empty bottle of the beverage when he was stopped on Saturday evening. A field sobriety check administered at the roadside revealed the individual had been drinking. Other field tests included the walk and turn, eye test and holding one leg out while counting to a designated number.

Other stops for the evening included: seat belt violations; lack of insurance; lack of a valid driver's license or the driver not carrying a license; driving while license is suspended; and driving while license is revoked.

Officers at a recent Monett Police Department DWI checkpoint confiscated 27 Corona beers and a half consumed bottle of the same from a 17-year-old subject who initially attempted to evade the stop. Law enforcement officials were taking part in a nationwide DWI enforcement campaign last weekend. [Times Photo by Melonie Roberts]
One vehicle that was stopped and cited contained two adults and four children, one of whom appeared to have been in the process of being breastfed, in the front of a pickup truck. The driver was cited for multiple child restraint violations.

Officers conducting the test saw a number of people having designated drivers for the evening and spoke of taxi service and shuttle buses ferrying party-goers to a nearby festival.

"I think it's a great idea," said Detective Jeff Martinson. "We've seen the taxi go by here several times. I heard there were party buses headed over to the Ernte Fest that would get people there and back safely.

"If I were to go there, I would take my camper and just stay for the weekend," Martinson continued. "There is plenty of parking in the field."

"All we are here for is to deter drinking and driving," said Sgt. Jerry Harrison, patrol coordinator for the Monett Police Department. "We don't care if people want to go out and have a good time, we just don't want them putting other people at risk."

A van rolled through carrying several celebrators in the back and one man, who perhaps had overindulged a bit, unconscious in the front passenger seat.

"I'm the DD (designated driver)," said the woman piloting the happy crew through the checkpoint. "I'm taking everybody home."

"We appreciate your efforts," said Patrolman Steve Richardson. "Have a good evening and drive safely."

The checkpoint was held in conjunction with others in the area, including one by the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

On hand for the event were members of the Jasper County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). Volunteers provided information on the checkpoint and refreshments for officers working the line.

The Carthage Police Department loaned the Monett department a mobile command vehicle, which allowed officers to administer breathalyzer tests onboard the unit and maintain communications with Monett's 911 Dispatch Center.

"Anyone stopped here tonight for DWI will automatically have their information sent to the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR)," Harrison said. "If their license is revoked, they will be subject to the DOR's requirements to have their driving privileges re-instated."

Drivers are also subject to obtaining adequate auto insurance following their revocation of privileges, which is often high risk insurance and more expensive than regular coverage.

"It's not a simple process to be stopped for DWI," Harrison said. "There's a lot more to it than just failing a breathalyzer."

In Lawrence County, up to 25 officers conducted a two-night checkpoint on Friday and Saturday. Other agencies taking part in the checkpoint included the Missouri State Highway Patrol with up to five officers each night, and the Southwest Missouri DWI Task Force with 25 officers each night, along with volunteers from MADD. The checkpoint was held at the Mt. Vernon Airport, located on Highway H, with a total of 403 cars checked.

Lawrence County Sheriff Brad Delay reported a total of three DWI arrests for Friday and seven on Saturday. Other arrests were for outstanding warrants, speed and other driving violations and drug possession.

DeLay had worked with organizers of the annual festival for several months prior to the weekend event.

"We had agreed to place officers at the command post and to show a presence to let people know we would be looking for intoxicated drivers," DeLay said. "Most of the workers there also shared in that idea and helped by spreading the word to have a designated driver. They also posted a large sign that advised people of the checkpoints out on the road.

"All of those things were great," DeLay continued. "It is our purpose not to have any drunk drivers. I know that the Lions Club doesn't want people to drive drunk, and they were taking great steps to prevent as many as possible from doing so."

Because of the combined efforts of all law enforcement agencies on both nights, this year's total of 11 DWI arrests were made in southwest Missouri.

"This is down from 18 and 23 in previous years," DeLay said. "Hopefully, these numbers will continue to decrease to the point we don't have to arrest anyone for DWI."

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