WICHITA, Kan. — Four people were arrested at DUI checkpoint Saturday night in Wichita for driving impaired, said Sgt. Dan Oliver of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's office.
The Sedgwick County Sheriff's office, with assistance from the Wichita Police Department, set up the checkpoint on Kellogg near 119th.
During their nearly four-hour operation, they stopped more than 350 drivers, Sgt. Oliver said.
"We were out there trying educate people about the dangers of driving impaired and we were looking for impaired drivers," Sgt. Dan Oliver said. "Hopefully, we can remove them from the roadway and make it safer for everybody."
Looking on were family members of those injured or killed in DUI-related crashes. The families were there with volunteers from the Kansas DUI Impact Center.
"A lot of them use it as a way to see how law enforcement is preventing other families from going through the losses they have already been through," said Tracee O'Grady from the Kansas DUI Impact Center.
Among the family members there Saturday night was Linda Stilwell. Stilwell's mother was hit and killed by a drunk driver in Wichita nearly five years ago.
"It can happen to you. It happened to our family," Stilwell said. "We found out the person was completely drunk and passed out at the wheel."
She says she observes the checkpoints to support officers as they work to increase public awareness and get drunk drivers off the street.
"This is encouraging to me that something, something is being done," Stilwell said.
Sgt. Dan Oliver says officers met with the people in each vehicle that passed through the checkpoint. They handed out educational materials while also checking to see if the driver was impaired.
"They were looking for an odor of an alcoholic beverage, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, miscommunication," Oliver said.
If officers suspected a driver was driving impaired, they had the tools on site to do field sobriety and breathalyzer tests.
Stilwell and other family members of DUI victims say they now want lawmakers to do their part.
Stilwell says the man who hit and killed her mother served just three years in prison and she doesn't think that was nearly long enough.
"I hope we can figure out a way to make the consequences much more severe," Stilwell said.
But in the meantime, she says these checkpoints are an essential tool in battling drunk driving and preventing fatal crashes like the one which claimed her mother's life.
"I just hope that maybe by doing these more frequently, that we can get a handle on it and send a message that you don't want to do it. You just don't." Stilwell said.
On Saturday it happened again.
Just before 3 a.m., a 17-year-old drunk driver hit a Wichita police car as the officer performed a traffic stop in the 900 block of N. Tyler.
"The 17-year-old fled the scene but was taken into custody a short time later and got himself a trip to jail for DUI," said Sgt. John Hoofer of the Wichita Police Department.
Sgt. Dan Oliver, who leads the Sobriety and Impaired Driving division for the Sedgwick County Sheriff's office says this kind of crash happens all too often in the county.
"If you work third shift enough, eventually your patrol car is going to get hit by a drunk driver," Oliver said. "I've had it happen to myself before."
He says most DUI accidents he sees are actually single-vehicle accidents in which a driver is injured or injures others.
Sgt. Oliver is leading a DUI checkpoint in the Wichita area Saturday night as part of an effort to make a dent in the number of these kinds of crashes.
Oliver did not disclose the exact location of the checkpoint prior to it being set up but says officers will be there from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
"There's two reasons for a checkpoint: one is public awareness. That's probably the biggest issue. The second thing is to locate and find impaired drivers and remove them from the streets," Oliver said.
Officers will talk with all drivers who pass through the checkpoint and work to educate them while also checking to see if they are impaired. Officers will have materials on site to perform testing should they suspect a driver has been drinking.
"I've never been involved in a checkpoint where we haven't found at least one impaired driver," Oliver said.
He says most drivers will be stopped for just a short time -- about one to three minutes.
But in that time frame, Sgt. Oliver says he hopes officers can make a lasting impression that could ultimately save a life.
"It's all about education and having people think twice," Oliver said.