Roadblock on Lombard stops 2,535 7 who partied too hard are arrested

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In the heart of Baltimore's downtown, every vehicle got stopped, from the limousines to the buses to the beat-up pickup trucks.

The location for Thursday night's drunken-driving roadblock on Lombard Street near Market Place was a prime spot to catch all kinds of people -- from the tipsy businessman coming from a Christmas party to the drunken factory worker on his way home after too many nightcaps.

"Everyone's got to go through here. This is a very visible point for us to get our message across and educate people," said Maj. Alvin A. Winkler, commander of the city police traffic bureau.

The checkpoint, which ended early yesterday morning, was the fourth by city police since July, when they launched a crackdown in response to a surge in fatal traffic accidents. This year, 66 people have been killed in city car crashes.

In the latest roadblock, police stopped 2,535 cars and made eight arrests -- six for drunken driving, one for drugs and one for a man driving with a suspended license. They also warned 531 people who were not wearing seat belts.

The three previous checkpoints, two downtown and one in the southeastern district, resulted in 6,278 car stops and 28 arrests for drunken driving.

Police said they chose the Lombard Street location because traffic from many popular nightspots feeds through the area, particularly from Market Place and Fells Point.

One of those arrested, a man in a suit and tie headed home from an office Christmas party, had an open bottle of beer in the car. An officer handed him a pamphlet from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The man failed a breath test administered by a portable machine, which showed his blood alcohol content was .17 percent, well above the state's intoxication standard of .10 percent.

Major Winkler said many arrested in the roadblocks simply don't realize they're over the limit -- which could explain why many drunken drivers failed to turn off the road before entering the roadblock. Police even posted signs warning of a roadblock ahead.

"Why would you drive through a police sobriety checkpoint with a beer bottle between your legs?" Major Winkler asked.

"It shows that not many people know their own ability is impaired, yet they all get out and fail the tests immediately."

Elizabeth Stevens, executive director for the Northern Maryland chapter of MADD, said drunken driving accidents soar over Christmas and New Year's.

"A lot of people who normally don't drink or drink to excess are out at the holiday parties and don't think how they are going to get home," Ms. Stevens said.

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