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Stopping DUIs a joint effort

ACTION Coalition teams up with local law enforcement to conduct sobriety checkpoints

Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a dangerous and potentially fatal decision, and the holidays are prime time for drinking and typically the busiest time of year for drunk driving arrests.
In an effort to deter impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel, area law enforcement partners with the ACTION Coalition to routinely conduct sobriety checkpoints.
“During a sobriety checkpoint, the deputies check the driver’s license, vehicle tags, and ensure the driver is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” explained Roxanne L Roedel, program coordinator with the Johnson County ACTION Coalition. “Then they are provided information pamphlets from an ACTION Coalition staff member or volunteer and allowed to pass through the checkpoint.” The pamphlets, which contain information on blood alcohol concentration, alcohol impairment and addiction, also include local and regional resources available to anyone needing assistance and a summary of the programs offered through the ACTION Coalition.
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, there were 18,913 driving under the influence arrests across the state in 2017 alone. For some drivers, such arrests may result from being pulled over at a DUI checkpoint.
While there has always been some question about the legality of sobriety checkpoints, also called “mobile checkpoints” or “roadblocks,” Tennessee law allows this tool.
Corporal Adam Worley, with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, in addition to being a K-9 handler and patrol supervisor, coordinates sobriety checkpoints with the ACTION Coalition.
“One of our priorities as an agency is DUI enforcement,” said Worley, who explained DUI, or driving under the influence, includes driving under the influence of drugs including alcohol. “The goal is to make our presence known on the roadways, to keep intoxicated drivers off the road, and reduce alcohol/drug-related accidents on the roadways that sometimes may lead to fatalities.”
The focus of a checkpoint is to deter potential drunk drivers by the threat of arrest. The idea is that it can often be enough to publicize the presence and location of a sobriety checkpoint because that thought alone can keep intoxicated people off the roads. With penalties for a DUI consisting of significant fines, loss of license, and jail time, there exists plenty of incentive for finding an alternative means of transport to getting behind the wheel after a few drinks.
“Anytime that we can get an intoxicated driver off the roadway,” said Worley, “we feel we may be stopping a possible accident that could lead to innocent travelers on our roadways getting injured or killed.”
The community can help keep themselves, their loved ones, and their community safe from drinking and driving by choosing not to drink and drive, getting a ride if you drink, and insisting friends refrain from drinking and driving.
“If someone close to you misuses alcohol or drugs, the first step is, to be honest about the problem and to seek help for yourself, your family, and your loved one,” said Roedel, who advises the ACTION Coalition has plenty of information for distribution. “People with addiction need treatment, not stigma. To help remove the stigma against those battling addiction, the negative connotation associated with addictions must be shed. We can no longer see addiction as something to be shamed, something that
lessens another person’s worth.”
Corporal Worley agrees. “If you or a friend or family member have an addiction problem or misuses alcohol or drugs, there are facilities and information out there to help,” he said. “The first
step to overcome the issue is being honest and ask for help.”
The Mountain City Police Department also assists with Sobriety Checkpoints. “We appreciate the support from both the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Mountain City Police Department,” said Roedel, on behalf of the ACTION Coalition. “We encourage community volunteers at the sobriety checkpoints.”
The group even awards gas coupons to those willing to help and explains anyone at least 18 years old interested in volunteering to distribute information packets at sobriety checkpoints, should visit the ACTION Coalition at 138 E Main Street, or phone 423-727-0780.