Officers with the California Highway Patrol performed a sobriety/driver license check point between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m. in the south bound lane of Highway 41 in Oakhurst Saturday, stopping 542 vehicles out of the estimated 11,000 that passed through.
Saturday's operation was under the direction of CHP Sgt. Brad Denham.
Although the officers, trained in the detection of alcohol or drug impaired drivers, were armed with hand-held breath testing devices, pulled nine drivers off the highway for sobriety tests, including blowing into a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Device to help determine if the driver was intoxicated. All nine were released after it was determined they were not driving under the influence of alcohol according to Denham.
The past three DUI checkpoint operations in Oakhurst have stopped 1,325 vehicles, resulting in one arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence, five misdemeanor citations for driving without a license and two vehicles being impounded from drivers with suspended licenses.
A DUI checkpoint was held in Fresno the same night resulting in nine arrests on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and 14 vehicles impounded because drivers were arrested on suspicion of DUI or did not have valid drivers licenses.
"We are making random stops while keeping the traffic moving the best we can," Denham said. "When it is busy, we stop every fifth vehicle ... when the traffic slows down we check everyone."
Out of the 542 vehicles stopped, three drivers was cited for driving without a license. In those cases the driver's passenger was licensed and was allowed to drive the vehicle from the check-point.
A new California law allows unlicensed drivers to find a licensed driver to drive their car away, if the licensed driver can be found before the checkpoint shuts down for the night. If a driver is not found, the vehicle will be impounded. Previous law allowed for the vehicle to be impounded immediately when the driver was found to be unlicensed.
One driver was found to be driving with a suspended license and his vehicle was towed to an impound yard immediately.
"Our goal is to ensure the safety of motorists by occasionally targeting specific areas with checkpoints designed to augment patrol operations," Denham said. "Checkpoints are an effective way to achieve our goal and send a clear message that if a person decides to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, there is a good chance they will be caught."