Checkpoint backs up traffic on Highway 169 North in Alabama

benw@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 18, 2013 

Traffic was backed up along Highway 169 North at County Line Lane Wednesday as Alabama authorities set up a checkpoint for impaired drivers.

More than a dozen deputies from the Russell County Sheriff’s Office, Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Alabama Department of Public Safety took part in the four-hour detail which started at 5 p.m. EST. The checkpoint and other operations over the next few weeks are aimed at making the highways safer during the holidays, said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.

“We are not necessarily limiting it to alcohol based DUI,” Jones aid. “We are looking for any impaired driving that could be attributed to prescription medication, drugs. It certainly can cause the same thing to happen. It’s just as dangerous.”

Selecting the location in Crawford was not random. “I think the state picked this road because of the traffic between Opelika and Phenix City,” said Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor. “This road is heavily traveled. The other thing is they just want the public to know that holidays are coming up and we are going to be out enforcing the traffic, trying to keep the DUI’s off the road.”

At the checkpoint, the officers checked for driver’s license, registration and vehicle insurance. “They will observe their actions for speech, flushed face, red eyes,” Jones said.

Shortly after the checkpoint was in operation, Reginald Mitchell, 29, of Crawford was in handcuffs. Sgt. Darryl Powell of Russell County said Mitchell was held for a suspended license and he also had outstanding warrants.

Mitchell said he was on his way home when his red Toyota was caught in the checkpoint. “They won’t even tell me what the charges are,” he said. Mitchell said he was just in court a week ago trying to resolve some charges.

Powell said he and reserve deputies were writing tickets or giving written warnings for minor traffic violations such as an expired license.

Checkpoints have been successful in the past, Jones said. “Our primary issue is we want to draw attention to the fact that we are out here actively working to reduce folks impaired on the roadway,” he said. “We have had several arrests over the last checkpoints we have done over the last few years. Generally, it never fails. We make some arrests.”

During one checkpoint, Jones said the operation was known and a motorist still came through with a portable meth lab. “He goes to jail with a meth lab in the back of his truck,” he said.

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