MIDDLESEX COUNTY — County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan announced Wednesday that police have been setting up sobriety checkpoints as part of an annual program to ensure the safety of high school students during their prom and graduation ceremonies.
The program, now in its 25th year, has been operated successfully by members of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Fatal Crash Investigations Unit and the county’s municipal police departments, who randomly station checkpoints around the county to check for impaired drivers.
While there have been numerous arrests for impaired driving over the years, no students have been killed or injured in crashes or arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated during the prom and graduation season.
The results show that students are getting the message that impaired driving is not only dangerous, but has serious consequences, said Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Nicholas Sewitch, who oversees the operation of the sobriety checkpoints.
First-time offenders run the risk of losing 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, Sewitch said.
‘’The purpose of the checkpoints is to remove intoxicated drivers from the street; to educate the public about the dangers of drinking and driving and drugged driving, and to deter people from getting behind the wheel after using alcohol or drugs,’’ Sewitch said.
‘’The overall goal is to promote the safety of the motoring public and to ensure that our prom and graduation celebrants arrive home safely,’’ Sewitch said.
‘’Keeping our children safe is of the utmost importance and I welcome any program that helps us do that,’’ said Freeholder Mildred S. Scott, chair of the County’s Law and Public Safety Committee. ‘’I thank the Prosecutor’s Office and all the members of the municipal police departments for their shared commitment to the safety of our young residents.’’
Police began setting up checkpoints on April 24, 2010, and, since then, have checked motorists in Dunellen, Old Bridge, Highland Park, Carteret, Plainsboro and South Brunswick.
During that time, more than 300 motorists were stopped and given pamphlets advising them of the dangers of impaired driving. In addition, 12 motorists were arrested on DWI charges, two were arrested on pre-existing criminal charges and 225 summonses were issued for a variety of motor vehicle offenses, such as being unlicensed or driving unregistered or uninsured vehicles.
The program, made possible through a $43,000 grant from the New Jersey Division of Highway and Traffic Safety, will run through the end of June.
In 2009, there were 47 fatal crashes that resulted in 51 deaths in Middlesex County. Twenty nine percent of the crashes were alcohol-related, but none involved teenagers traveling to or from their proms or graduations.
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