Police backed up traffic in Grantsville Friday evening in an effort to curb drunk driving.
Officers from the Grantsville City Police Department, Tooele City Police Department, Utah State Parks and the Utah Highway Patrol, stopped 839 cars during a DUI checkpoint. Drivers were screened on Grantsville’s Main Street from 6-11 p.m.
Grantsville City Police Chief Kevin Turner said the roadblock, set to regulation standards with a warrant, the positioning of the traffic cones and the notice given about the operation, occurs about once a year in Grantsville. Officers ask to see a driver’s license, insurance and registration, he said, and detain drivers further only if conditions warrant it.
“The initial stop is limited to 90 seconds,” he said. “If there’s something amiss, it’s a little [longer and more in-depth], say, if there’s a smell of alcohol.”
The operation, funded by a grant through the Utah Highway Safety Office, is one of 14 held so far this year. Sgt. Ted Tingey of the Highway Safety Office said the aim of checkpoints is to catch drunk drivers and warn drivers thinking about driving drunk or otherwise engaging in unsafe traffic practices.
“We’re coming to the end of the 100 deadliest days of the year, from unbuckled seatbelts, drinking and driving, distracted driving, pedestrians in the road — any kind of fatality with a vehicle,” he said. “We’re hoping this sends a good reminder.”
At the checkpoint, a car painted to look half like a taxi cab and half like a police car is one such reminder, he said, hopefully driving home the message that people who have been drinking can choose to go in a cab or be arrested.
While many DUI enforcement checkpoints take place around holidays — besides Grantsville, Lehi also had one over Labor Day Weekend — Tingey said other checkpoints are scheduled between holidays to serve as a reminder to make smart driving decisions during the rest of the year.
“We’re trying to keep DUI enforcement year-round instead of just on holidays,” he said.
Along with the taxi-police vehicle, a Blood-Alcohol Testing unit on wheels — known as a BATmobile — was at the checkpoint for use with any DUI cases. Interviews and any testing, including of breath, blood and urine, between officers and suspects are filmed and burned onto a DVD for use in prosecution, said Trooper Michelle Hancock, BATmobile technician.
Hancock, who travels with the BATmobile from checkpoint to checkpoint, said most of the suspects interviewed in the unit are polite, especially considering the stress and severity of the situation.
“Every once in a while you’ll get someone who’s angry,” she said. “It depends on how they’re dealt with. If you’re respectful with people, most of the time everybody’s pretty nice. They just want to have this done and move on.”
She added, “I feel bad for the people because they’ve made a mistake, and for some of the people, if they’ve had two other DUIs [in the last 10 years], it’s a felony.”
Three people were arrested for DUI at the checkpoint, including two who had their blood tested for the presence of drugs, said Lt. Steve Barrett of the Grantsville City Police Department. Also, 31 citations for equipment, drivers license, insurance or vehicle registration violations were issued.
Turner said while the number of arrests and citations is not high enough for some people to feel the operation is justified, he believes checkpoints have an overall positive effect on the community.
“It’s unfortunate you can’t try to keep some kind of statistics on prevention, what didn’t happen because of an officer’s presence,” he said. “You might just put a bug in someone’s ear that maybe I shouldn’t drink and drive, or maybe I shouldn’t drink that much.”