Ocean County authorities said this week that they will be stepping up intoxicated driving enforcement and checkpoints through the county as prom season and summer traveling season pick up.
The county will continue its checkpoints in various areas countywide; unlike Monmouth County, Ocean County does not announce the exact locations of its checkpoints, but alerts the press to the general nature of its enforcement program.
“The start of prom season and the added volume of summer shore traffic calls for increased vigilance by law enforcement, and that will be the focus over the coming months to keep motorists safe,” said Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato, in a statement.
Working with local police agencies, county law enforcement will participate in staging numerous checkpoints throughout Ocean County, the statement went on the say. The program’s design “creates a force multiplier” by regionalizing and supplementing local DWI enforcement. The program will also conduct DWI enforcement patrols throughout the county.
“While inattentive and aggressive drivers are always targets of law enforcements’ regular patrols, the purpose of these efforts is to detect, educate, deter, arrest, and vigorously prosecute impaired drivers,” the statement said.
The program targets those under the influence of alcohol, but in response to Ocean County’s drug crisis also utilizes an addition of two drug recognition experts, known as DREs, at each checkpoint to detect those under the influence of narcotics. The county also oversees a countywide call out system for DRE’s to respond and assist local agencies in conducting evaluations of motorists suspected to be operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs.
Each year, the prosecutor’s office said, impaired drivers are responsible for about a third of the deaths occurring on Ocean County roadways. In 2013 Ocean County had 51 fatalities, the second highest number in the state. During 2014, there were 46 deaths on Ocean County roadways.
The checkpoint program, which is funded in part by the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, will be conducted by local police agencies in conjunction with detectives from the prosecutor’s office. The Ocean County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Unit will also participate, focusing on both intoxicated and drug impaired drivers. The program is operated through the Prosecutor’s Vehicular Homicide Unit, coordinated by Det. David Margentino under the direction of Assistant Prosecutor Patrick Sheehan.
Coronato reminded drivers that an extra measure of caution and not operating under the influence can prevent tragedy.