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Drunk driver crackdown on tap for St. Patrick's Day

Union Leader Correspondent

March 15. 2012 12:54AM
Rye Police Chief Kevin Walsh holds up a photograph showing a vehicle involved in a fatal car crash a year ago during a news conference at the Epping park-and-ride Wednesday to announce increased DWI patrols on St. Patrick's Day Saturday. Walsh said alcohol, speed, and a driver not wearing a seatbelt were contributing factors in that deadly accident. (Jason Schreiber)

EPPING - St. Patrick's Day has always been a holiday associated with drinking, but this year law-enforcement officials are warning people to be responsible or pay the price.

'It takes approximately 8,260 bolts to put an automobile together. It takes one nut to scatter it all over the road,' Rye Police Chief Kevin Walsh told a Wednesday news conference to announce plans for increased patrols Saturday as people head out to party.

About 60 police chiefs and other state, county and local law-enforcement officers attended the news conference at the Epping park-and-ride, where a mobile DWI command center will be stationed Saturday night as police hit the highways throughout Rockingham County in their hunt for drunken drivers.

County Attorney James Reams said 16 agencies have provided an extra 27 patrols Saturday night and early Sunday morning. The patrols will target highways, including Interstate 95 and Routes 1, 101, 125, 107 and 108.

'We hope we have no arrests, no crashes and no deaths,' Reams said.

State Police Col. Robert Quinn said that in past years police focused on holidays like Independence Day, Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends, but now they're expanding their efforts to crack down at other times of the year.

He said the night before Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to Christmas are among other times when police see more problems.

'When we have cast our net out there, so to speak, we've seen that we have netted many impaired drivers,' Quinn said, adding that specially trained drug-recognition experts will also be out.

The state Division of Liquor Enforcement will have increased patrols, with investigators checking restaurants and bars where people could be overserved in Rockingham and other counties, said Lt. Jim Wilson of Liquor Enforcement.

Reams cited state statistics that show more than 14,000 drivers in New Hampshire with multiple DWI convictions.

'It's a staggering number,' he said.

Walsh held up a picture showing a crumpled vehicle involved in a deadly crash a year ago. Alcohol, speed, and no seatbelt were factors in the deadly accident, said Walsh, who urged people to help police by contacting them when they see someone driving erratically.

According to Peter Thompson, coordinator of the state Highway Safety Agency, the state saw 90 traffic fatalities last year - the lowest number in 50 years.

'That didn't just happen. It came about because we have the law-enforcement community here, state police, local police, the sheriff's department, the liquor-enforcement folks. They're out all of the time now and that's why we have a lower fatality rate,' Thompson said.

To drive home his point about the dangers of drunken driving, Thompson recalled an alcohol-related accident in Wakefield in 2001 that left four people dead.

Thompson urged people to make sure they have a designated driver if they plan to party this weekend, or any other time.

'Have fun,' he said, but don't get involved in an alcohol crash.'

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