LAS VEGAS - The country's largest, most concentrated and most aggressive drunk driving crackdown started in Las Vegas Friday night. This Memorial Day weekend, Metro Police are holding five sobriety checkpoints in areas notorious for drunk driving.
"A car will enter the checkpoint. We'll ask them to roll down the window all the way, and we'll ask them if they've been drinking," said Metro Police Traffic Lt. Rich Fletcher. If officers detect the odor of alcohol, they will move the car and conduct a field sobriety test. Drivers suspected of being under the influence must walk the line and balance their leg. The eye test requires them to follow an officer's flashlight. Then, officers will administer a breathalyzer test.
Several drivers at a checkpoint on Flamingo passed the tests and were free to go. "Based on data, this is a good place to set up especially on a long weekend," Lt. Fletcher said. "We hope to take as many impaired drivers off the streets as we can." This weekend's crackdown involves 250 officers and civilians. They all share a common mission: to stop drunk driving before it shatters more lives.
Metro says drunk driving fatalities are down 72% from this time last year. Police believe checkpoints are one reason for the decline. "In the past, we've had people just try to keep driving," Lt. Fletcher said. "That's a charge. We have units in place to track them down."
While some impaired drivers make it home safely, others may lose control and injure or kill someone, tearing apart lives. Sandy Heverly of Stop DUI says checkpoints can avert a crisis. "The bottom line is that they are designed to save lives," she said. "It's early intervention, early detection of people who may be too impaired to be driving in a safe manner."
While some criticize the checkpoints, she says they can catch more than just drunk drivers. "It's been our experience, as recently as the last checkpoint, where a car of kids were pulled over. There were about five kids in the car. Also in the car was a bag of pot and a bong. The driver was unlicensed. This was a disaster waiting to happen," she said.
Metro officers say they could arrest as many as 30 people on Friday alone. The checkpoints run through Monday from 7pm until 3am.