To detect and deter impaired driving was the strategy behind Friday morning’s sobriety checkpoint.
Motorists traveling Yager Road, between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., on Friday were greeted by officers from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Warren County Sheriff’s Department, McMinnville Police Department and Warren County 11th District Constable Ed Farmelo.
The law enforcement agencies were stationed about a half mile from Pinewood Lane, an area between two curves. Friday’s checkpoint produced five seatbelt citations and one open container citation.
“We like to hold sobriety checkpoints each month,” said Highway Patrol Sgt. Kevin Ballew. “I’m over Warren and Cannon counties, so we’ll alternate between the counties. During a year’s time, we’ll have six in Warren County and six in Cannon County. We have a good working relationship with Warren County Sheriff’s Department and McMinnville Police Department.
Both agencies have always been willing to assist us and we do the same for them. It’s a good working relationship.”
Sobriety checkpoints are a law enforcement tool utilized to detect and deter impaired driving. Officers are stationed at a fixed location along the pre-advertised roadway and stop vehicles to check for impaired drivers.
During the stop, officers engage the driver in a brief conversation in an attempt to determine if the driver is impaired.
While the majority of drivers are compliant, there have been exceptions and the danger of being struck by a vehicle is real for officers.
“A couple years ago, we were conducting a sobriety checkpoint on Highway 8,” said Ballew. “A motorist stopped initially. He must have thought better about it, because he took off. We chased him. He was finally apprehended in the area of Warren County High School.”
Ballew keeps a lookout for oncoming vehicles that might be showing signs of a reluctant driver in order to protect the officers, as well as counts the vehicle as they pass for department records.
“You’d be surprised,” said Highway Patrol Lt. Billy Prater, when he was questioned if they actually find impaired drivers in the morning or midday hours. “For whatever reason, we will find impaired drivers at all hours of the day.”
Officers also check to make sure children are properly restrained and seatbelts are being used.
For sobriety checkpoints to have maximum impact, they need to be publicized. Tennessee Highway Patrol sends media updates regarding its efforts. Those are published in the Southern Standard.