3 DUI arrests, 8 impounds from CHP checkpoint Friday

Sgt. Tom Lackey (left) headed the California Highway Patrol's DUI/license checkpoint Friday.

PALMDALE – The California Highway Patrol Friday conducted one of the last DUI/license checkpoints of 2011. The operation took place on Sierra Highway, just north of Avenue Q in Palmdale, and was headed by Sgt. Tom Lackey.

“It’s towards the end of the year where people have a tendency to celebrate and we just want to make sure that if people are going to celebrate that they don’t compromise the safety out on the roadway,” said Lackey.

Lackey says from 6 p.m. to about 1 a.m., more than 800 cars were screened. He says the screening process involves a request to see the driver’s license and a short conversation to assess the driver’s potential impairment.

“The things that we primarily initially look for are the odor of alcoholic beverages, possibly even marijuana, or anything that could give us reason to believe that they could be unsafe to operate a motor vehicle,” said Lackey. “We look at their eyes to see if there is some impairment in their eyes and we try to engage them in very minimal conversation to see if they are able to articulate normally.”

The AV Times dropped by the checkpoint around 9:30 p.m. and stayed until about 11 p.m. Most cars moved swiftly through the checkpoint during that time. In a handful of instances, drivers were asked to pull into the parking lot of a nearby storage facility for further assessment.

One driver was issued a citation because a child was not properly restrained in his vehicle (the child seat was actually in the trunk of the car); officers searched the vehicle of another driver after detecting a faint odor of marijuana; and two drivers were cited for driving without a license and driving with a suspended license. In one of the cases, the driver was able to get a licensed driver to come and take the vehicle. In the other case, the vehicle was towed and impounded.

Saturday Lackey said the operation yielded three DUI arrests and 16 citations for driving without a license or driving with a suspended license. He said, of those 16 citations, eight cars were impounded and eight cars were released to someone with a valid driver’s license. One car was placed into storage because the driver was arrested for DUI but had a valid driver’s license, Lackey said.

Friday’s checkpoint was one of three DUI checkpoints the CHP conducted for 2011. The first DUI checkpoint, earlier this year, yielded three DUI arrests, and the second DUI checkpoint, a joint effort with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, yielded no arrests.

Lackey says DUI checkpoints are successful not just for the number of arrests they yield but for bringing awareness to the general public.

“There’s a misunderstanding among many in the general public that our only goal in a DUI checkpoint is to apprehend impaired drivers. Certainly that’s one of the goals and objectives, but it’s also to communicate to our regular public the importance of driving safely,” Lackey said. “Our statistics have proven that people who are unlicensed pose a greater threat to the motoring public, so that’s the second component to our checkpoints, we check to make sure that people are driving within the trained parameters that a driver’s license offers.”

“We appreciate those who do drive safely, but if you’re driving impaired, we’re certainly going to follow up on that to make sure that the roadways aren’t compromised by someone else’s poor decisions,” Lackey said.