WASHINGTON — Now that the holidays are here, police in Montgomery County, Maryland are stepping up enforcement to prevent drunken driving crashes.
Wednesday night, I rode along with some of those officers to see them in action.
In an unmarked car, we parked near two different liquor stores to see if we could spot underage people trying to buy alcohol.
At the wheel was Officer Jeremy Smalley.
“Once or twice a month we’ll come out and do this at certain, different places throughout the county. We don’t always go to the same place, we go all over the place.”
At one location Smalley, using binoculars, spotted someone of interest.
“A kid in the liquor store looks like he might not be 21, so we’re just kind of watching what he’s doing, what he’s buying. When he comes out we’ll see what car he gets into.”
But on this night, our surveillance did not lead to any arrests.
Back at police headquarters, Captain Thomas Didone said a special alcohol task force that began work this month will keep at it through early January.
“We have approximately 20 officers working on a holiday task force. These officers are specifically assigned to aggressively arrest drunk drivers (and) look for underage drinkers, with the total goal of trying to prevent any more fatal collisions from occurring in Montgomery County.”
There have been 33 deadly crashes in the county so far this year that left 34 people dead. And although speed and distracted driving were the main causes of these crashes, failing to buckle seat belts and alcohol were secondary causes.
“So throughout this campaign, officers in addition to looking for the drunk driver, will be looking for those drivers who are speeding, who are driving distracted talking on their cellphones with the ultimate goal of catching and preventing them from having the collisions,” said Didone.
He says before you take part in holiday celebrations, think ahead.
“If you know you’re going out and drinking, have a plan. Stay wherever you’re going, or have a designated driver.”
Smalley urges parents not to host parties for underage kids.
“When they start hosting the parties, actually the kids tend to drink more alcohol because they feel like they’re safe.”