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Catching Drunk Drivers

Police sobriety checkpoint yields seven DWI arrests.

In an effort to crack down on drunk drivers and the havoc they can wreak, Fairfax County police conducted a sobriety checkpoint, Friday night, at Route 29 and Union Mill Road in Centreville. It ran from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. and resulted in seven DWI (driving while intoxicated) arrests.

Officers marked off the area with orange cones so drivers would have to slow down and stop when they came to the checkpoint. Most motorists cooperated with the police. However, one driver plowed right through the checkpoint and had to be pursued. Police caught up with the car at I-66 and Route 29 and charged its driver with DWI, felony speeding to elude and hit and run.

All totaled, 572 vehicles went through the checkpoint. Manning the site were eight police officers — one from every district station — and four auxiliary officers. Sgt. Walter Harter of the Sully District Station was the supervisor.

ALL MOTORISTS GOING through the checkpoint were checked to make sure that their abilities to drive were not impaired by drugs or alcohol. Drivers were also given information sheets telling them that:

* Alcohol-related crashes have increased more than 25 percent since 1998.

* More than 1,000 alcohol-related crashes occurred last year — resulting in 20 deaths.

* The economic cost of such crashes is estimated at nearly $50 million annually.

* Impaired drivers are responsible for one-fourth of the current highway fatalities.

For reasons such as these, Fairfax County police plan to conduct at least one sobriety checkpoint, somewhere in the county, every week. Meanwhile, Friday night, Willow Springs Towing was keeping busy towing away vehicles whose drivers had been arrested for DWI and who had no passengers who could then drive their cars for them.

Harter said police had already made three DWI arrests before the first hour of the checkpoint was up. Surprised, he said, "We figured we'd get more later, when the bars closed."