Karina Barriga Albring

Equinox Staff


In order to prevent an increase in the number of incidents over Labor Day weekend and, with the return of students to Keene State College, the N.H. State Police planned sobriety checkpoints in different areas.

One of the checkpoints took place on Lower Main Street, in front of Appian Way on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. That same day, the twelfth Keene Music Festival was held.

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According to a review in The Keene Sentinel, during the festival, over 80 bands performed on different stages around the downtown area. The event lightened up the end of the summer in Keene and attracted visitors from far beyond the state limits.

Unfortunately, the music festival did not end well for everybody. That night the policemen stopped 124 vehicles. Two people were arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI), five minors were arrested for possession of alcohol, and three open container violations were registered, according to State Police Sergeant Jayson Almstrom.

The sobriety checkpoint was advertised ahead of time. On Aug. 29, Troop C of the New Hampshire State Police announced the two checkpoints scheduled for the first and second weekends of September in Keene. “Putting out the press releases, raising people’s awareness that we are going to be doing this is to keep them from getting behind the wheel before they have been drinking,” Sergent Almstrom said.

Officer Timothy Peloquin from the Keene Police Department said DWI checkpoints are “almost a self defeating things. It’s like they say ‘don’t drive down here,’ but you would be surprised how many people still drive through a sobriety checkpoint having been drinking or with open containers.”

Several news websites spread the information. Moreover, the Keene Sentinel published an article advertising the checkpoints. Labor Day weekend certainly promised heavy traffic in the area.  Still, many drivers seemed not to expect the checkpoint.  Cristina Cappucci, a KSC senior, was driving when she received a phone call from a friend warning her about the checkpoint. “I was told to go on Winchester Street. I didn’t know there was going to be a sobriety checkpoint, but I was okay with it,” she said. “I didn’t know exactly, but I figured.”

Stephanie Diskin, also a senior, described the checkpoint as “very predictable.  I mean, it was Labor Day weekend, people were going to be driving around and the police were going to patrol. Also, they have done it before”.

According to Sergeant Almstrom, of the NH State Police , an officer requests the vehicles stop during the checkpoints to complete a survey. “Most of the responses we get are positive. People affirm checkpoints don’t cause significant delay, some say we should do it more.  We are not out there to get tons of people arrested for DWI. We are there to try to keep the roads safe,” Sergeant Almstrom said.

So far, over 80 people have been arrested this year in Keene for charges of DWI. In 2011, NH State Police Troop C arrested 280 for DWI in the counties of Sullivan and Cheshire. According to NH State Police, the checkpoints intend to increase the public safety by arresting impaired drivers.

New Hampshire’s laws and penalties towards driving while intoxicated (DWI) are some of the strongest in the country. Depending on the number of times the person has been arrested for DWI, the punishments include fines, time in jail, as well as a license suspension.  In the state, drivers can have their license suspended even if they haven’t yet been arrested for DWI. If the driver is pulled over and refuses to participate in the testing process, there is punishment called ALS, Automatic License Suspension.

Officer Peloquin explained, “When you get your license, you are basically giving your consent that you will agree to take these tests if you are stopped for DWI. If you don’t, or if you fail, the state punishes you on the top of what the court does.”

A crucial reason for increasing the control around the roads is the statistics of traffic accidents and deaths on the roads in New Hampshire this summer. Twenty-two lives were lost on the highway, including pedestrians, passengers, car drivers, and motorcycle riders last month, according to information released by the Division of Motor Vehicles.

According to Officer Peloquin, most of the accidents occurred due to “human error,” many being related to DWI. “I don’t remember the exact percentage, but they say like 60 percent of the people driving have been drinking after one o’ clock,” Peloquin said.  .

Police records confirm that the number of deaths on the roads is, in several cases, caused by the use of alcohol. Sergeant Almstrom agreed with Peloquin and said he believes up to 60 percent of the accidents have been related to alcohol or drugs. NH State Police, together with the Highway Safety Agency, are investing more funds in order to keep the roads safe. “We have patrols work extra hours during the day and the night to complete speed controls, DWI controls, focus on aggressive drivers,” Sergeant Almstrom said.

Many security officers are out patrolling the streets in the state of NH with the aim of preventing more tragedies from happening; nevertheless, it is an individual choice to be conscious, act in a responsible manner, and prevent incident statistics from getting any higher.


Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at


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