By Joe Beck
Frederick County's three biggest law enforcement agencies are planning a joint effort to target drunk drivers on and around St. Patrick's Day.
Motorists may notice sobriety checkpoints and other enforcement measures in place from March 14 through March 18.
Lt. Warren Gosnell of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office Traffic Division said his agency will be teaming up with the Winchester Police Department and Winchester Sheriff's Office in an effort to deter and catch impaired drivers.
"Frederick County saw an increase in DUI arrests and a decrease in alcohol-related crashes in 2013, and we are working to continue that trend now in 2014," Gosnell said in a news release.
In an interview, Gosnell said the Sheriff's Office, working with the Winchester Sheriff's Office and Winchester police, recorded 31 offenses during a sobriety checkpoint conducted on March 16, 2013. The charges included two for drunk driving, 12 for driving with a suspended license and 11 unlicensed drivers.
"I would say that was successful," Gosnell said of last year's checkpoint.
Sobriety checkpoints are scheduled this year from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. March 14 in the area of U.S. 11 in the northern part of the county and from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. on March 17 along the city-county border.
"On Saturday and Sunday nights there will be a couple of extra units out that will be specifically looking for drunk drivers," Gosnell said, adding that "awareness will be taken up a notch or two" among deputies on regular patrol during the same four-day period.
The statewide number of alcohol-related crashes on St. Patrick's Day rose from 28 in 2011 to 44 in 2012, according to Gosnell. The number of alcohol-related crash injuries over the same period increased from 15 to 37.
"We hope that folks will heed this and other warnings and drink responsibly this St. Patrick's Day, but we will be here to do our jobs if they choose otherwise," Gosnell said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org