Cheating Checkpoints: Facebook page alerts BR drivers to DWI checkpoints

STAFF
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 4:53pm

In South Louisiana, alcohol is a part of life.

"You look at sporting events, parades, festivals, things like that. If you look at Louisiana historically, alcohol is part of the culture here," says Lt. Cory Reech.

When alcohol is a part of the culture, it can also be part of the problem. Something Lt. Reech has seen up close. He's been in DWI Enforcement for more than 25 years.

"No one sees themselves as that guy," he says, "that’s, one day, one night, one evening, that's sitting in the back of a police car. And we hear that phrase over and over again, 'Officer, please, I'm not that guy.'"

In the Louisiana Highway Safety Plan for 2014, there a section focused on addressing impaired driving, "Driving after drinking is taken too lightly in Louisiana. A cultural shift toward understanding the realities and consequences of drinking and driving, must take place."

Lt. Reech agrees. "We have a serious issue in this town," he says, "and not just in this town, everywhere."

Part of the Highway Safety Plan includes utilizing DWI Checkpoints to cut down on impaired driving.

"Drunk driving, drugged driving, buzzed driving, it's all the same thing and it's preventable by one person, and that's the driver of the car," says Lt. Reech.

But what if going through a checkpoint was also preventable? A Facebook page called 'Baton Rouge DWI Checkpoints' makes that possible.

"The Facebook page or the Twitter or any kind of social media explodes within a few minutes of us setting up a checkpoint," says Lt. Reech.

The page was started by Jarrett Ambeau, the owner of The Ambeau Law Firm. There are more than six thousand people following the page and that number is on the rise. There's also a Twitter page.

Ambeau explains, "The followers themselves will tell me as soon as they see it being set up somewhere, "Hey, there's a checkpoint going up at this location or this location."

Then he looks for confirmation and it goes on the page. His goal is to spread awareness of both the checkpoints and his firm.

"Marketing is a very important thing for us, especially a small business owner like myself."

Ambeau says he's gotten a lot of positive feedback. Of course there's been some negative feedback as well but he wants to be clear, "I don't support drinking and driving, I'm not putting this out so people can avoid and go drive drunk in other places. I'm just saying, 'Look, there’s this thing going on tonight and if you're in a space where you can't get home, then call a cab or find a designated driver or do something different.'"

Lt. Reech says, people are getting the message.

"And when we stop, we'll ask them, 'Did ya'll call a cab because of the checkpoint?' 'Yes we did.' We get a lot of thank you's," he says.

But are the police thankful? Do they want people to know where their checkpoints are?

"If that gives our location and it warns people, 'Hey, the police are out there. They are arresting drunk drivers,' Then that's what we're looking to do," says Lt. Reech.

So maybe the better question is: What makes a DWI Checkpoint successful?

"In specific areas that are known for alcohol violations and we don't make any arrests or we stop designated driver after designated driver, that's success," says Lt. Reech, "no question whatsover."

The message is the same. Education. Awareness.

"When we say we want a zero tolerance," says Lt. Reech, "we don't want to reduce death and injury by 10 percent because the remaining percentage might be you, and that's not fair." 

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