Police crackdown on ‘Blackout Wednesday’

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WLNE) — Police across the nation are on the lookout for drunk drivers in the Ocean State, especially on “Blackout Wednesday” — the eve of Thanksgiving.

North Kingstown Police Lt. Don Barrington expects to pull over 15 to 20 vehicles for suspected drunk driving during his four-hour shift Wednesday night.

“It is usually our busiest night for the DUI Task Force,” said Barrington.

Barrington and other officers across the state look for excessive speed, traffic violations, and constant braking as signs of impaired operation. But they specifically look for swerving cars.

He explained, “They’ll drift over the double yellow line, then they correct themselves, and then they’ll go over the white fog line. So, you see them doing that and that usually gets your attention right off the bat.”

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation reports about 147 deadly crashes across the country during this holiday weekend in 2019. They are expecting pre-pandemic crowds, last seen in 2019.

Once cars are pulled over, Barrington looks for some key signs of impairment.

“Slurred speech, you can smell alcohol coming off their breath, bloodshot watery eyes,” said Barrington. “They seem to be confused. Believe it or not, a lot of times people don’t even know where they are. Some people can’t even stand up — you don’t know how they were driving a car.”

He concluded, “You know, what we dread is someone getting behind the wheel and killing themselves or someone else. That’s what we dread — and that’s what we’re trying to keep from happening. In the end, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about keeping people safe. We don’t want to arrest anyone. But unfortunately, people’s actions make us have to arrest people.”

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