Checkpoints aid in community safety

TAYLOR COUNTY—In an effort to keep the residents of the county, and those passing through, safer, the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department recently held a DUI and Safety Checkpoint.

According to Taylor County Sheriff Terry A. Austin, the checkpoint was held on Saturday, November 10, beginning at 9:00 p.m., and extended into the early morning hours of Sunday, as they finished at approximately 2:30 a.m.

“Officers from the sheriff’s department, as well as members of outside agencies, pushed through the freezing temperatures to be sure that each passing vehicle was checked to ensure that they were driving legally and in a safe manner,” Austin shared.

He said he believes these kinds of checks are a crucial step to help curb the local drug problem.

“The checks are just another tool to battle the drug epidemic that law enforcement in this county deals with on a daily basis,” noted Austin.

During the evening, a total of 303 vehicles were inspected at the stop.

“Throughout the night, we did find some issues,” Austin revealed. “We arrested one person for driving under the influence of an impairing substance and issued eight more citations.”

Those citations included three for possession of a controlled substance, two for driving while license suspended, one for permitting and unauthorized driver, one for no insurance, one for an expired license and one for an expired motor vehicle inspection.

Sheriff Austin reported that throughout the operation of their checkpoints he has noticed a few trends.

“It seems like later in the night, we tend to see more serious infractions coming through the checkpoints,” he shared.

Austin said he’s not sure if it is because people think the officers won’t stand out in the night as long as is reported or if there is another factor, but he said he’s willing to speculate that factor plays into it.

“During this checkpoint, in one of the last vehicles of the night, we had four individuals traveling from Ohio back to Virginia,” he shared. “Upon their stop, we cited all four individuals and they had to have their vehicle towed from the checkpoint.”

Another trend Austin shared that he has noticed is that typically when someone is under the influence of alcohol, they will avoid going through the checkpoints.

“But people who are under the influence of drugs, they seem to think that because there is no smell associated with their drug use, they will make it through just fine. They’re wrong,” he explained. “There are plenty of other ways to tell when someone is under the influence, and we are trained to do so.”

Aside from the training of the officers, one of the key components of combating drugs at the checkpoint is the use of the department’s K-9 unit.

“He’s a heck of a tool to have and is an asset to the department,” Austin expressed. “He has consistently hit on vehicle that have contained drugs or have been used in drug use. He’s got a 100 percent rate on his hits. He’s an incredible K-9.”

With over 300 vehicles making their way through the checkpoint, sometimes traffic will tend to back up. Austin offered some tips to make the stop less hectic and run a little faster and smoother.

“When you know there’s going to be a checkpoint in the area of travel, go ahead and have your license, registration and insurance card ready to go,” he commented. “It’s always a good idea to keep your registration and insurance card together in a location in the vehicle, by themselves.”

He also shared that he’s noticed that drivers will keep old, outdated insurance cards or past registration cards.

“Just keep the current information. You don’t need the old ones, so just go ahead and toss them,” he added. “It will help keep things moving during a checkpoint.”

Austin revealed that the department will continue to hold checkpoints in the future, because he believes that they are beneficial to the community.

“I would like to thank my deputies and transport personnel, the West Virginia State Police and members of the K9 Unit of the Department of Corrections for their hard work,” he expressed. “I would also like to thank Donald Ford of Donald G. Ford Funeral Home and Danny William’s of Dan’s Marina for contributing equipment as well as a safe location on Route 50 to conduct the DUI and Safety Checkpoint.”

Austin shared with the upcoming holiday travel season he would like to remind drivers to be safe and courteous to other drivers, as well as the pedestrians around them.