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Police Set Up Local Roadblock, Aim to Nab Drunken Drivers

By John D. Solomon

Patrolman Michael Pavone stopped 300 cars on Memorial Drive late Friday night and said the same thing to every driver.

Pavone was part of the Metropolitan District Police's first area roadblock to check for drunk drivers.

He and other officers stood on Mem. Drive near the Mass. Ave. Bridge, stopping each eastward-bound motorist for about 10 seconds between 10:45 p.m. and 12 midnight and warning them of the dangers of and penalties for driving while intoxicated.

Roadblocks are one part of Gov. Michael S. Dukakis's new effort to reduce the number of drunk drivers in the state, especially on the roads around college campuses. Officials say Friday's action was the first in a series of monthly checkpoints that will be set up in that area.

Motor vehicles heading down Mem. Drive were funneled into a 300 ft. single line surrounded on either side by flares and squad cars. At the front of the line, police had set up bright searchlights to give their spiel to and look at the motorists.

As they handed the drivers pamphlets describing state laws regarding drunk driving, the patrolmen were checking for alcohol on the drivers' breath or for slurred speech. But of the more than 600 motorists who passed through, only two were pulled over.

After further questioning, however, the drivers did not seem intoxicated and were allowed to continue on their way.

Officers at the scene said that even though there were no arrests, the roadblock was successful because much of its impact is in longterm public relations.

"This puts the thought in their head for the future. When someone decides to drink and drive, they'll think about the roadblock they went through recently," Sgt. John Morris said Friday.

Pavone added that response was positive. "Most of them just smiled and went on their way. I think they agree with what we're trying to do," he said.

Had the officers believed that any of the drivers were driving while intoxicated, they would have subjected him to a field sobriety test, which includes walking a straight line and touching his own nose. The police would arrest a motorist who failed, bring him back to the station and administrator a breathalyzer test.

A driver who registered, 10 alcohol content on the test (the equivalent of about five beers or three martinis in an hour) would face two years in jail, a $1000 fine and a one-year license revocation.

When the roadblocks began in 1982, they were challenged in court as an invasion of privacy. But the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld them as important to the public safety, provided the police carefully administrated them.

The court ruled that officials must give three days' warning in the media giving the general area in which a roadblock will be set up, allow motorists a 300-ft, warning that a checkpoint is approaching, talk to every driver, not just to random motorists, and administer the roadblock with specially trained personnel.

In addition, regulations prevent drivers from turning back once they have passed the 300-ft warning mark.

Most motorists interviewed said the roadblock was worth the momentary inconvenience if it helped to keep drunk drivers off the roads.

"I just saw a had accident on Storrow Drive." Karen Macy of Abbington said Friday after going through the roadblock. "If this had been over there the accident might not have happened."

For Caroline Brown of Gloucester, the roadblock was a dream come true. "When I saw the flashing lights up ahead. I was so excited," she said, adding. "I always wanted to go through one of these.

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