April 16, 2012
Last night my wife and I and a few friends went out for a late night snack. We had fish and chips, pizza and other late-night fare. The fast food joint we went to was not licensed to serve liquor, wine, or beer, so alcohol was not even a question. Since we had come in from different places we were traveling in three separate cars but were all going back to the same general area and following the same route.
On the way home we came upon a lone police car parked on the left side of the road on a one-way street with its lights flashing but doing nothing else. This was unusual since police cars and, in fact, all cars usually pull over to the right in order to park for any reason. Of course, since it was a police car, everybody slowed down and drove very carefully. It was a good thing we did.
Going over the next rise we came upon a roadblock manned by no less than 10 police cars squeezing all traffic into just one lane. This was at about one o’clock in the morning. The weather was fine and road conditions perfect. After 100 m or so there was a sign that indicated that the police had set up a roadside operation to check for drunk drivers.
Naturally, all traffic slowed to a crawl as it entered the checkpoint lane. There were five cops standing about two car lengths apart. They allowed the traffic to move forward until the first car reached the last police officer in line. An officer then came to the car and asked me to roll down your window while she gave a cursory examination of the inside of the car with a flashlight.
The officer very politely explained to me that they were conducting an operation that they usually do between Christmas and New Year’s but have now decided to do more often in order to save lives. She asked where I had been that evening and if I had anything to drink. I told her about the fish and chips and that there was no alcohol involved. She smiled wished me a pleasant evening and allowed me to continue on my way.
Our friends in the car behind us were also stopped and apparently asked the same questions. Presumably they gave the same answers, perhaps exchanging pizza for fish and chips. They were asked to pull over and to take a roadside breathalyzer test. The driver complied, passed without problem and was allowed to continue on his way. The whole process took about five minutes.
My friend and I were chatting about the incident this morning and he was curious as to why he was asked to pull over and take a breathalyzer test while I was not, and whether this was discriminatory or illegal in any way. I told him he has really shifty eyes and I had always worried about his honesty in the past.
Of course I was only kidding. He’s 54 years old, and a successful businessman who does not look in any way dishonest or shifty. However, the police do have a right to randomly choose people during this type of operation for a breathalyzer check. The Supreme Court has ruled that this is not discriminatory, but is a valid method for helping keep our streets safe and getting drunk drivers off the road.
I was impressed with the high level of organization exhibited by the police officers. The whole operation ran smoothly and with a maximum amount of politeness at all times. I did find out however that six people during the two-hour operation failed the breathalyzer test and were taken to the station to be arrested. Personally I was happy to donate two minutes of my time to this type of operation to know that at least six drunk drivers were off the street that night.