Local troopers labor on holiday to keep public, highways safe

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Holiday weekends like Labor Day may mean time off to celebrateand visit with friends for some people. But for most of thetroopers of Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop M, it’s not much of arest.

Long weekends mean cookouts, parties and of course, roadblocks.Highway Patrol officials say standing in busy roads checking forinfractions isn’t always the way they’d want to spend their holidayweekend, contrary to popular belief.

“A large part of the time we don’t want to be there either, butit’s a big part of the job and it’s what we do,” said MHP PublicAffairs Officer Sgt. Rusty Boyd. “We’re aware we’re interferingwith a lot of good people going about their business, but we alsoget a lot of people off the road that don’t need to be there, too.The good outweighs the bad in the end.”

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At random driver’s license checkpoints like the one on DelawareAvenue in McComb Friday night, as many as 10 troopers are on thescene.

Boyd said that gives them time to catch up with each other, butit can also be a good opportunity for them to interact with thepublic. He said when he was on the street beat he tried toaccentuate the positive as well as looking for infractions.

“I always tried to make it fun,” he said. “You can do a lot ofpublic relations work with the people that come through and greetthem in a professional manner and make it as pleasant as youcan.”

During the checkpoints, troopers are checking for insurance anddriver’s licenses, as well as traffic infractions such as expiredstickers and tags. And of course, they check for drivers under theinfluence as well.

“The biggest part of the time we’re looking for driver’slicense, proof of insurance, seat belt violations, stickers, tags,and of course, doing that we come across drivers under theinfluence,” he said.

Boyd said sometimes that can lead motorists to flee, much like adriver who turned around in traffic and went up the wrong side ofthe road. He was finally apprehended after wrecking by troopers,who said he did not have a major reason to flee.

“That’s a common occurrence at roadblocks when people realizewhat they’re looking at and they’re in a situation they knowthey’re going to get in trouble,” Boyd said. “I have chased themdown and it’s been as little as they don’t have their driver’slicense. So it’s a common occurrence, though not the wrecking anddriving in the wrong lane.”

He said when there’s a chase, it’s about equal the number ofminor charges and major charges that cause people to run from theHighway Patrol.

“It’s probably even,” he said. “About half are DUI or somethingmajor and half are some kind of little traffic violation.”

Boyd said the location of the checkpoints is subject to severaldifferent kinds of criteria, including size and traffic.

“McComb is one of the biggest cities in the district, so youknow we’re going to hit that,” he said. “I don’t know if being in adry county has anything to do with it. I know Franklin County isalso dry, and they set up out there and get quite a few violationsand DUIs.”

Boyd also said the number of accidents in an area can contributeto the placement of roadblocks.

“That’s really up to the supervisor in charge. They look at thestats and see if they can locate a place that needs attention,because of a higher number of wrecks, and they also look for pointsof convenience,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into where youwant to put up your roadblocks.”

The amount of time most roadblocks stay open can vary, too. Boydsaid it generally depends on the amount of traffic in the area.

“It depends on the amount of traffic and if it keeps everyonebusy,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll set up one place for a while andmove after a while to someplace else. It depends on the sergeant incharge.

“If we’re getting a lot of violations and a lot of drunks, we’regoing to stay there.”

Boyd said motorists in District 9 can expect roadblocksthroughout the weekend, so they are reminded to drive safely andresponsibly and to wear their seat belts.

“We’re going to continue through the weekend,” he said.”There’ll probably be roadblocks up to Monday night, and linepatrols as well this weekend.”