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Seeking sobriety
Officers hold massive checkpoint
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Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Billy Prater said DUI arrests are currently about 50-50 between drugs and alcohol.

During Friday night’s safety checkpoint in Newtown, law enforcement officials made one DUI arrest and cited several other motorists for violations.

The DUI arrest was a mother with two children in her car, ages 8 and 5. A relative was called to pick up the children.

“The goal is to keep impaired drivers off the road,” said Sgt. Kevin Ballew of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. “We are trying to reduce fatality numbers.”

About 25 to 30 law enforcement officers were called to the checkpoint in Newtown on Nashville Highway. A total of 581 vehicles were checked during a two-hour span from 8 to 10 p.m. Friday night. 

In addition to the DUI, law enforcement officials issued two child restraint violations, one suspended driver’s license violation, six other non-moving citations, and gave four warnings.

Several government agencies were involved in the checkpoint, including the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, McMinnville Police Department and Warren County Sherriff’s Department, along with others.

“We try to pick locations where we need to be, evaluated by analyzing crash data,” said Highway Patrol Lt. Billy Prater. “Our goal is to keep both motorists and officers safe.”

Lt. Mark Mara of McMinnville Police Department explains law enforcement officials are looking for the use of proper child restraints, adult seatbelts and individuals driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

“I would lean more toward the use of prescription and illegal drugs currently being the cause of impaired driving instead of alcohol,” adds Mara.

Four drug recognition experts were on the scene. Signs law enforcement officials look for to see if a driver might be impaired include looking at the individual’s eyes, listening to how their speech is being delivered and watching how their body is responding to the situation and officers, such as beginning to fidget or trying to hide things. Mara said when people have been drinking or using drugs, simple things like wearing a seatbelt are often forgotten. 

“I believe these checkpoints are great because it brings awareness we are trying to make the roadways safer,” says Mara. “The best feeling in doing this is the fact we know we’re making a difference. We’re being told by motorists they appreciate us being out here so late and protecting the roadways.”