2015-10-30 / Front Page

City hopes to crack down on drunk drivers

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland Police Department has applied for a $10,000 “2016 DriveSober Maine!” grant offered though the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

The city council approved the application at its Oct. 19 meeting. If awarded, the grant will pay for 200 hours of special detail coverage in South Portland.

That coverage would include at least two checkpoints where police officers would stop vehicles at a roadblock, and five so-called “saturation patrols,” between Nov. 28 and Jan. 2, 2016. A second period from Aug. 19 to Sept. 5, 2016, would include no fewer than two saturation patrols and one checkpoint.

A required local match for the grant would be met by an in-kind donation of time spent by a department administrator to manage the program and report data back to the highway safety bureau.

There were 34 highway deaths attributed to impaired driving across Maine in 2013. The goal of the upcoming program is no more than 25 alcohol-related deaths.

Locally, fatal crashes involving alcohol have been “relatively flat” since 2013, Police Chief Ed Googins said.

“We’ve seen, if anything, a slight downward trend in the numbers,” he said.

Still, councilors enthusiastically endorsed the potential of added patrols.

“It only takes a second and maybe you’ve taken someone’s life, or the life of a child,” Mayor Linda Cohen said. “So anything we can do to get some enforcement out there, that’s a good thing.”

Meanwhile, Councilor Tom Blake said he’s like to see the program expanded to include what he deemed to be the leading cause of teenage deaths on the highway.

“This is a great program,” he said. “Hopefully, in the future we can see grants come in for texting.”

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