BENNINGTON -- Friday evening around 8 p.m., members of the Bennington, Winhall and Wilmington Police Departments joined to conduct an impaired driving checkpoint on Route 7 across from the state office complex.
Lieutenant Lloyd Dean of BPD organized the operation. According to Dean, all of the officers on duty were paid overtime for their efforts with funds gained by way of a Governor’s Highway Safety Program grant, which police departments within the county apply for each spring.
Dean said Friday night’s checkpoint was one of a handful of others conducted by departments within the county throughout the year, mostly on high-traffic, holiday weekends, including Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day.
The idea of the checkpoints, he said, is not to make drivers feel uncomfortable or intimidated, but to simply educate the masses on the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance, for that matter.
"It’s not just driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence (of alcohol) anymore," Dean said. "It’s impaired driving -- driving while taking prescription medication, drugs, anything like that. It’s all dangerous."
Corporal Chris Lauzon, also of BPD said he continues to see the value in checkpoints throughout the year, since their inception about ten years ago.
"They give us an opportunity to interact with the motorists, have one on one contact and look for any other violations that we may not otherwise notice," he said.
Lauzon concentrates on child passenger safety and was recently recognized for his service in that particular field at an awards ceremony.
He said that during the checkpoint he was able to ensure that all child passengers were safe and secure and that he was able to take the extra time when necessary to educate adults on things that may have needed correcting.
"I think the public appreciates when we hold these checkpoints," Lauzon said. "We tend to get a lot of positive feedback, thanking us for keeping the roads safe."
According to Dean, checkpoints tend to be more of an efficient method of communicating with and screening drivers than simply by driving around on patrol.
"We have the opportunity to see so many vehicles, both in and out of state, and can take the time to just talk to drivers," he said. "We can explain why we are out, why we’ve set up the checkpoint, and just let them know that we take impaired driving very seriously."
For those that may feel uncomfortable passing through a checkpoint, Dean said that passing or turning around before going through a checkpoint is not illegal, so long as said driver does not pose a safety hazard for other drivers or violate any traffic laws in the process.
"The whole point of these is to make sure the roads are safe for you, me, all of the motorists out there," he said. "It’s all about safety."
Dean reported that approximately 1,000 vehicles passed through the checkpoint during its 8-11 p.m. timeslot, and a total of 1,700 motorists and passengers were contacted by officers.
Tracey Moore, 49, of Hoosick Falls, N.Y. was the sole driver processed for DUI 4th offense, with a blood alcohol level of .147, according to Dean.
Moore was remanded to the Marble Valley Correctional Center in Rutland.
Police also screened a second operator, but she passed all field sobriety exercises at roadside.
With questions about impaired driving laws or information about impaired driving checkpoints, contact the Bennington Police Department at 802-442-1030.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @bethconkey.