DWI checkpoints will be set up year-round

While in the past, Middlesex County officials have set up sobriety checkpoints on select weekends and holidays, a state grant will now allow the late-night roadblocks to be implemented year-round.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan announced last week that the DWI checkpoints would begin last weekend in an effort to ensure the safety of motorists and pedestrians. Members of various municipal police departments in the county and investigators from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Fatal Crash Investigations Unit are being randomly stationed at locations throughout the county to check for impaired drivers.

In past years, the sobriety checkpoints usually were set up for various holidays and during the prom and graduation season each spring, Kaplan noted. This year, a $43,000 grant from the state Office of Highway Traffic Safety will enable police to establish the checkpoints at any time during the year.

“Due to the dedicated efforts of our local police departments, the sobriety checkpoints have been very successful over the years in helping to curb driving by motorists who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” Kaplan said.

The checkpoints, first established in Middlesex County in 1985, seek to educate motorists about the dangers of impaired driving and encourage them to drive soberly.

“The purpose of the sobriety checkpoints is to remove intoxicated drivers from the road,” said Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Nicholas Sewitch, who supervises the checkpoints. “We also want to educate people to the dangers of drinking or using drugs and driving, to deter people from driving if they have become intoxicated, and to ensure the safety of the motoring public.”

Motorists stopped at the checkpoints are given pamphlets outlining the consequences of impaired driving, according to a press release. They are also told that first-time offenders could lose their driving privileges for up to seven months and face a variety of fines, insurance surcharges and legal fees that could total as much as $15,000.

“I applaud the work of the prosecutor and his staff and the proactive, multi-pronged approach they are taking to preventing impaired driving and the disastrous results that may follow,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Mildred S. Scott, who chairs the county’s Law and Public Safety Committee. “The safety of our drivers, their passengers and pedestrians remains paramount, and we must take any and all avenues we can to prevent tragedy.”

Last year there were 42 fatal crashes in the county. Thirteen of those involved alcohol or drugs, and eight involved drivers between the ages of 17 and 21. The 42 fatal crashes represents the lowest number recorded since the checkpoint program began, county officials said.