*Audio of the story with clips from law enforcement above*
Law enforcement officials in Watauga County now have a new resource in their fight to curb impaired motorists.
On Thursday (March 20, 2014), members of the media were invited to attend the first regularly-scheduled use of the BATMobile in Watauga during a DWI checkpoint at the intersection of West King Street and College Street, beside First Baptist Church in Boone.
The BATMobile (Breath-Alcohol Testing) has been in regular use in the eastern part of the state but is expanding into the western sections according to Chad Towery, driver of the unit. The bus used on Thursday is assigned to the areas west of Interstate 77 and will start making regularly-scheduled monthly appearances in Watauga County.
Lt. Donnie Goodman with the Boone Police Department says that checkpoints are held where there have been noted problems in the past. He also added that complaints from citizens also play a factor in where checkpoints are set up.
Local law enforcement officials have high praises for the benefits of the BATMobile. It not only provides testing for alcohol and drugs on site, but it also allows for a magistrate to be on location to speed up the process of booking for possible charges against impaired individuals.
Each BATMobile is equipped with workstations for Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test instruments, cellular telephones, computers, officer's workstations, magistrate's work area, lavatory, DWI checkpoint signs, traffic cones, traffic vests, search batons, screening tests devices, and all other necessary equipment and supplies for processing DWI suspects, according to North Carolina Governor's Highway Safety Program website.
Visibility at non-DWI check points will also be a key role this year, Towery added. Events at local high schools and colleges in western North Carolina provide an opportunity to allow students to not only see the bus but walk through it and see the process of being charged with drunk driving.
Twenty-seven officers from Boone Police, Watauga County Sheriff's Office, ASU Police, Blowing Rock Police, and Highway Patrol all took part in the checkpoint, along with representatives from MADD and Western Youth Network.
As a result of the checking station, the following charges were made:
• 4 Driving While Impaired;
• 1 Wanted Person – Assault on a Female;
• 1 Fictitious Information to Officers;
• 4 Alcohol Violations;
• 4 Misdemeanor Drug Violations;
• 1 Felony Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Sell and Deliver;
• 35 Other Motor Vehicle Law Violations.
Lt. Donnie Goodman addresses officers
Testing station inside the BATMobile