Officials: Plan will curb DUIsVALLEY CITY, N.D. — Members of the North Dakota Department of Transportation and law enforcement officials from Ashley to Wahpeton met here Thursday to announce to the launch of a new program to combat intoxicated driving. The Regional Driving Under the Influence Task Force Program will start Oct. 1 with required quarterly saturation checkpoints in the southeast Jamestown region, which encompasses Eddy, Foster, Griggs, Stutsman, Barnes, LaMoure, Logan, McIntosh and Dickey counties.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
VALLEY CITY, N.D. — Members of the North Dakota Department of Transportation and law enforcement officials from Ashley to Wahpeton met here Thursday to announce the launch of a new program to combat intoxicated driving.
The Regional Driving Under the Influence Task Force Program will start Oct. 1 with required quarterly saturation checkpoints in the southeast Jamestown region, which encompasses Eddy, Foster, Griggs, Stutsman, Barnes, LaMoure, Logan, McIntosh and Dickey counties.
“The Regional DUI Task Force is not a national program,” said Linda Butts, deputy director of the NDDOT. “It was put together by North Dakota for North Dakota.”
Of the 116 law enforcement agencies in North Dakota, 90 percent will participate in this task force, said Sandy Wilson, program manager of the safety division of the NDDOT and driving force behind the task force. In the Fargo and Jamestown regions there are 29 law enforcement agencies participating.
“We truly have people making choices, dying on our roadways and that’s preventable,” Wilson said.
With the launch of the task force, when one law enforcement agency conducts a saturation checkpoint, other agencies will also conduct a checkpoint in their own jurisdiction, she said.
“The number of cars, the focused effort that’s going forward, we’re going to see them arresting more people,” Wilson said.
The task force is much needed, said Jerry Kemmet, director with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Last year there were around 6,000 DUI arrests and 56 fatalities where alcohol was involved, Kemmet said.
“When it’s time to step forward, you always step forward,” he told the room filled with nearly 30 law enforcement officers.
There were no alcohol-related fatalities in Jamestown’s nine-county region for 2009, said Gerard Zlotkowski, chief deputy sheriff with the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Department.
“Alcohol-related driving and the enforcement is one of the most important things we can do,” Zlotkowski said.
Sgt. Tom Nagel of the Jamestown Police Department said the city, county, tribal and state effort is a first for North Dakota.
“We found this works good from what other states have done,” Nagel said.
Barnes County Sheriff Gene Bjerke said he looks forward to working with agencies in other counties.
“Our goal is to keep drivers or motorists safe from alcohol-related crashes,” Bjerke said.
Rep. Ed Gruchalla, D-Fargo, also spoke at the event and discussed drivers’ safety legislation.
“I do think it’s time for law enforcement to take a little more active role in the legislative process,” Gruchalla said.
He served 25 years with the North Dakota Highway Patrol and has seen his share of accidents.
One area he spoke about was graduated drivers’ licensing for teen drivers. Gruchalla said that Rep. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, would co-sponsor a GDL bill with him if he is re-elected.
North Dakota is the only state in the nation without any type of graduated drivers’ licensing.
Still, he said the Regional DUI Task Force program will help reduce fatalities.
Nagel said he is also confident that the program will work and keep impaired drivers off the road.
“It’s cheaper to take a taxi than a ride from us,” he said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at email@example.com