Law enforcement efforts to curtail driving under the influence (DUI) are in full swing throughout Montgomery County and the entire state of Maryland. In Montgomery County, specially trained police are out in force as part of the annual Holiday Impaired Driving Task Force.
“We know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, there are many holiday parties that include the use of alcohol,” Montgomery County Police spokeswoman Lucille Baur said. “So our officers are trying to be particularly vigilant this time of year. We want to make sure that people driving through Montgomery County stay safe.”
The Impaired Driving Task Force, which has been operating for more than a decade, includes saturation patrols, sobriety checkpoints, and compliance checks for minors.
Police routinely respond to reports of underage parties where alcohol is served, which are all too frequent this time of year, Baur said. Once authorities confirm that minors are drinking, a “controlled dispersal method” is used to deal with the issue. That means all attendees are screened for alcohol usage, those who are underage are issued citations, and everyone is ensured a safe ride home from a parent or other adult. Any adult who permits underage drinking is also cited.
Saturation patrols consist of increased enforcement of traffic laws in areas known for alcohol-related crashes or a large number of establishments that serve alcohol.
While on patrol, officers use sting operations in which they ask underage volunteers to enter various establishments and attempt to purchase alcohol. The volunteers carry proper identification and do not lie about their age. If the clerk does not ask for identification, or does ask but sells the alcohol anyway, a citation is issued.
Sobriety checkpoints are typically conducted in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Baur said. Every car is stopped at each checkpoint, and locations are not publicized in advance.
The enforcement effort kicked off with “Operation Turkey Chase,” an all-out effort to prevent intoxicated driving on the night before Thanksgiving. According to Sgt. Mark White of the Montgomery County Police Traffic Division, during the first 12 working days of the initiative, the task force made 483 traffic stops, wrote 532 traffic citations and 83 criminal or civil citations for underage drinking, made 74 DUI arrests, and made 17 arrests for drug-related offenses.
Baur said it is clear that the effort is working.
“We know that because we have an increased emphasis on prevention of impaired driving and have officers specifically dedicated to being on the lookout, this contributes to safer streets,” she said.
To report an underage party, call the police non-emergency line at 301.279.8000.