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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2006
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Authorities plan DUI checkpoints
Police to set gantlet of stops,
patrols to catch drunk drivers

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com · 340-2355

With local drinking establishments not serving alcohol Sunday, some revelers are making plans to celebrate New Year’s Eve in nearby cities such as Huntsville, where alcoholic beverages will be available.

“We probably could have found somewhere here to go, like Cafe 113 or something. Now we’re gonna have to go to Huntsville, and someone’s gonna get a DUI. Hope it’s not me,” said Hunter Hallmark, a 23-year-old Decatur resident.

Regardless of where drinkers choose to party, police are encouraging them to use designated drivers.

Drivers will be running a gantlet of police checkpoints and intensified patrols aimed at stopping people from driving under the influence this holiday.

Huntsville stops

Huntsville police, whose DUI Task Force made 1,234 DUI arrests so far this year, said they will set up checkpoints at the following locations Friday through Monday, from 11:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.:

  • South Memorial Parkway and Hobbs Road.

  • South Memorial Parkway and Martin Road.

  • Church Street and Pratt Avenue.

  • Pratt Avenue and Andrew Jackson Way.

  • Bob Wallace Avenue and Jordan Lane.

  • Jordan Lane and Holmes Avenue.

  • Jordan Lane and Ninth Avenue.

  • Pulaski Pike and Oakwood Avenue.

  • Whitesburg Drive and Teakwood Drive.

    Police will also hold daytime checks and set up some checkpoints without announcing locations.

    Weekend

    On weekends, state troopers typically eye roadways leading to and from larger cities, and New Year’s Eve will be no exception.

    Cpl. Darrell Campbell said all available troopers will be patrolling the highways this weekend in search of impaired drivers.

    “For us, it’s pretty much everyday business, when your primary job is traffic control. We will utilize safety checkpoints along with our moving patrol,” Campbell said.

    The Decatur trooper post covers Morgan, Lawrence, Cullman and Limestone counties.

    Decatur police on Wednesday had yet to announce any plans for checkpoints, but police did say they would have officers volunteering for overtime on the holiday in an effort to corral drunk drivers.

    Athens police Capt. Tracy Harrison said police will do spot checks Friday and Saturday, but be out in force Sunday, New Year's Eve.

    Harrison said about 25 officers and reserve officers will conduct checkpoints throughout the city between 5 p.m. on Sunday and 2:30 a.m. on Monday.

    The department is not releasing the checkpoint locations, Harrison said, because drivers then could avoid them.

    Private parties

    Harrison said people driving home from private parties will probably pose a bigger problem than drivers returning from out-of-town clubs, but added that police will be prepared in any case.

    "Two or three of our locations will probably check traffic coming from the Madison County area, but we're not just looking at bar traffic.

    "You have hundreds of people that gather at homes and
    watch football games and so on. ... So we'll be on the east side of the city watching for traffic coming from the Madison-Huntsville area, but we'll be everywhere else, too," Harrison said.

    Drinkers "need to get a designated driver, or, worst-case scenario, call the police and we'll drive them home," Harrison said.

    "We're not going to be a taxi service ... but we'll evaluate each situation, and if it will keep them from getting in an accident and getting someone hurt, we'll drive them home."

    Chief Deputy Mike Corley said the Morgan County Sheriff's Department will pay special attention to "trouble spots," meaning high-incident areas for accidents and DUIs.

    The Sheriff's Department makes decisions on where to place checkpoints based on statistics from the North Alabama Highway Safety Office, Corley said.

    It may also place patrols or checkpoints near private parties.

    "We certainly hope that we're able to cut down on accidents with our visibility," Corley said. "If (drunk drivers) are out there, we certainly want to get them, but we hope there are none out there to be caught."

    Limestone County Chief Deputy Sheriff Randy King said deputies will not have DUI checkpoints.

    "But we will have extra officers out on patrol watching for drunk drivers over the holiday weekend, especially New Year's Eve," King said.

    Other offenses

    Police will also be on the lookout for excessive speed, aggressive driving, as well as seat-belt, tag and equipment violations.

    Police asked that drivers have their licenses and proof of insurance handy to speed up the checkpoints.

    Under Alabama law, a person over the age of 21 is legally intoxicated if he registers .08 on a blood alcohol test.

    Minors are considered intoxicated at .02.

    Staff writers Kristen Bishop and Holly Hollman contributed to this story.

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