TILTON — Drivers in the Lakes Region this holiday weekend may find themselves greeted by rows of blue flashing lights and crowds of police officers.
Only impaired drivers need fear the police presence at the yearly sobriety checkpoint, though, conducted by area police who are trying to keep drunk drivers off the roads.
If you aren’t drunk, and aren’t “high” on drugs, you needn’t fear, said Tilton Police Capt. Ryan Martin. Police will set up a checkpoint at an unannounced point of one of the busiest roads in the region, and they’ll begin allowing cars to pass, stopping many.
Officers may or may not ask for a driver’s license, Martin said, but will check for signs of drug or alcohol use and/or impairment.
“We won’t be stopping every car, and our intent isn’t just to go out and get people,” said Belmont Police Chief Mark Lewandoski. “Our intent is to educate people.”
Police announced the checkpoint in a joint press release between the Tilton, Northfield, Sanbornton and Belmont police departments, which together established a Lakes Region Regional DWI Task Force, which is needed because of increasing incidents of drinking and driving locally and nationally, police said.
To run the checkpoint, police asked for and were granted approval by an area Superior Court judge, Martin said. Such checkpoints are approved by the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which provides federal highway safety funds for DWI checkpoints.
“A review of records has shown that the use of alcohol by individuals who operate motor vehicles has resulted in an alarming number of deaths and personal injury accidents,” Martin said.The chiefs and staff of the four Lakes Region police departments “have taken an aggressive stance to prevent people from driving when intoxicated, Martin said. “New Hampshire has some of the most aggressive laws in the country to fight the intoxicated driver and the law enforcement community will use those tools to their full extent.”
Martin and Lewandoski said the number of DWIs have not necessarily increased in their towns in recent years, but the numbers statewide and nationally are too high. Checkpoints sometimes result in no DWI arrests, but in many cases police find impaired drivers and keep them from driving drunk.
“We’ve done surveys at our checkpoints, and 98-99 percent of the people say they were happy to see us out there,” Lewandoski said.