Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office
25 Kirkpatrick Street, 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 08901
*News Release* Date: April 22, 2009
Three DWI arrests; 83 summonses issued at weekend checkpoints
Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan and Carteret Police Chief John Pieczyski today announced the results of two sobriety checkpoints that were set up to begin an annual campaign aimed at preventing impaired driving during the high school prom and graduation season.
On the first weekend of the campaign, three people were arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). In addition, 83 summonses were issued for a variety of motor vehicle offenses that were uncovered during the checkpoints that were held in Carteret on Saturday (April 18, 2009) and Sunday (April 19, 2009).
Motorists were issued summonses for non-moving offenses, such as failing to wear seatbelts and failing to place their children in proper child-restraint safety seats. Drivers also were cited for moving offenses, such as driving while on the revoked list.
In addition, police arrested and charged three people whose names appeared on bench warrants for other, unrelated offenses.
Motorists who approached the checkpoints were stopped and handed literature advising them of the hazards and consequences of impaired driving. Of those stopped, 150 drivers were held at a staging area for further examination before being released, cited or arrested.
Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Nicholas Sewitch, who oversees the operation of the sobriety checkpoints, noted that none of those arrested and charged with impaired driving was a teenager involved in a prom or graduation celebration.
He said the lack of arrests of teenagers underscores the success of the program, which is aimed at encouraging young motorists to drive safely and soberly during the prom and graduation season.
The sober driving campaign, now is its 24th year, calls for the random establishment of checkpoints at various times and locations in Middlesex County through the end of June.
Seven Carteret police officers and two members of the Middlesex
County Prosecutor’s Fatal Crash Investigations Unit participated in last weekend’s checkpoints.
‘’Our community maintains a zero tolerance policy with regards to drinking and driving,’’ Carteret Mayor Daniel J. Reiman said. ‘’The importance of these checkpoints cannot be overstated. Particularly at a time of year when we see an increase of our younger adults traveling our streets, this program heightens awareness regarding motor vehicle safety, and helps maintain safe streets for both the motorist and the pedestrian. Of course, this program would not be possible without the support of Bruce Kaplan and the county prosecutor’s office.’’
Sewitch said education has been the key to deterring students from driving impaired. He noted that penalties are severe. First-time offenders could lose their driving privileges for at least seven months and face a variety of fines, insurance surcharges and legal fees that could total as much as $15,000.
While there have been no fatal crashes involving teenagers during the prom and graduation season, there were 42 fatal crashes in the county last year. Thirteen of those crashes involved alcohol or drugs and eight of the crashes involved drivers between the ages of 17 and 21.
Nationwide, 28 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 20 who were killed in motor vehicle collisions had been drinking.
Prosecutor Kaplan said the statistics are reason enough to maintain the sobriety checkpoints during the prom and graduation season. ‘’When our children drink and drive, they are at risk to kill or seriously injure themselves and others,’’ he said. ‘’Hopefully, this is all the motivation that we need to ensure that we, as parents, act responsibly when addressing the issue of alcohol use during prom and graduation season,’’ Prosecutor Kaplan said.
‘’I applaud the work of the Prosecutor and his staff and the proactive, multi-pronged approach they are taking to preventing impaired driving and the disastrous results that may follow,’’ said Middlesex County Freeholder Mildred S. Scott, chair of the county’s Law and Public Safety Committee. ‘’The safety of our drivers – the safety of our children – remains paramount and we must take any and all avenues we can to prevent tragedy.’’
This year’s program has been financed by a $29,975 grant from the state Office of Highway Traffic Safety.