For the fourth consecutive year, the Old Lycoming Township Police Department received first place among seven police departments in the annual DUI Enforcement and Training Awards, presented Tuesday by the Lycoming County DUI Advisory Council.
Award winners are determined by a formula so larger municipal departments are not given an unfair advantage, said Chris Smith, highway safety specialist for the Community Traffic Safety Project, of the state Department of Transportation. The formula includes the average number of DUI arrests made per officer and the number of hours spent doing field sobriety testing.
"It's feast or famine," said William Solomon, Old Lycoming Township police chief, about the number of cars driven through a checkpoint and the number of motorists who turn out to have been drinking.
Of the 133 cars stopped this past weekend, which coincided with Cinco de Mayo, six drivers suspected of intoxication were arrested, he said.
Having the checkpoints sets a reality for drunken drivers, Smith said.
"I try to tell them they can be arrested, or what will happen if they are arrested; but we need enforcement," she said.
Montoursville Police Department received the second-place award. It was the seventh time it placed in the 16 years the award has been presented.
"Seven departments participated," Smith said. "It was a good response."
Having enforcement out helps get drunken drivers off the road, but people continue to get in the car under the influence, said Geoffrey S. Arthur, executive director of Valley Prevention Services Inc.
"There are drinking drivers out there consistently year to year," he said.
Checkpoints will continue throughout the summer, including Memorial Day weekend, times when there are "high-incident DUIs," Solomon said.
So far this year, there have been seven fatal crashes, Lycoming County Coroner Charles E. Kiessling Jr. said. Two definitely were alcohol-related and a third is pending to see if it is related to the designer drug known as bath salts.
Many people still are not wearing seat belts, he said.
"The numbers aren't really high," Kiessling said. "Sometimes there's one (fatal crash) a month. I'd like to see it a lot less."