THE MAINE BUREAU of Highway Safety’s mobile OUI detection vehicle is in use at a roadblock on the Route 196 Coastal Connector in Topsham on Friday.

THE MAINE BUREAU of Highway Safety’s mobile OUI detection vehicle is in use at a roadblock on the Route 196 Coastal Connector in Topsham on Friday.

TOPSHAM

“Take a deep breath and blow into the plastic mouth piece steadily and with enough force to keep the Intoxilyzer machine emitting a steady tone.”

That’s what Maine State Trooper Joshua D’Angelo says each time he administers an Intoxilyzer test — a tool used to determine the amount of alcohol in a person’s system.

MAINE STATE TROOPER Joshua D’Angelo gives a tour of the new mobile OUI detection vehicle owned by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety which has room for a field sobriety test and drug recognition evaluations as seen here.

MAINE STATE TROOPER Joshua D’Angelo gives a tour of the new mobile OUI detection vehicle owned by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety which has room for a field sobriety test and drug recognition evaluations as seen here.

The Intoxilyzer test is one of the many resources aboard the mobile OUI detection vehicle — dubbed the “OUI rig” — that belongs to the Maine Bureau of High- way Safety. On Friday, the rig was at the OUI Regional Impaired Driver (RIDE) roadblock on Route 196 in Topsham, where members of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff ’s Department and Topsham Police Department stopped vehicles looking for signs of impairment.

Field sobriety tests and

drug recognition evaluations can be done in the back of the rig, and there is even a mobile restroom where police can get urine samples if needed.

“We’ve basically taken a police department or jail and put it on wheels, and we’re just trying to get the word out to the other agencies in the state that all they need to do is request it and it’s theirs,” D’Angelo said.

The OUI rig helps police with impaired driving enforcement and, because of its size, also draws a lot of attention from civilians.

“They love it. It makes them feel safer,” D’Angelo said. “If the impaired driver don’t want to play, we’ll go to them.”

The amount of time people are held up at a roadblock is minimal, usually only seconds.

“We’re speaking with them briefly, just getting word out on what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s a way for us to reach out to the public. More times than not we’re thanked.”

It also allows law enforcement to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to impaired driving. If there are clues police detect while speaking to a driver, they have the driver pull off into a secondary area so police can investigate further for signs of impairment.

Drug recognition

Deputy Matt Sharpe, a drug recognition expert for Sagadahoc County Sheriff ’s Department, was also at the roadblock. When someone suspected of driving impaired is given a field sobriety test and a breath test and the results are not consistent, that’s when Sharpe is called to conduct a drug recognition evaluation. He performed two evaluations Friday, which didn’t result in charges.

The drug recognition is a 12-step process. In part, Sharpe looks at whether a medical condition could account for the impairment. He performs clinicals — checking blood pressure and pupil size and how the pupils react to light, for example.

The program has been around since the 1980s and it works very well, Sharpe said.

Sharpe was the first DRE for his agency, which now has three. With the onset of the legalization of cannabis, “and our opioid crisis, the need for DREs is so much greater now than it ever has been,” he said.

The training is extensive, costly and time consuming, he said. The Bureau of Highway Safety now reimburses agencies for all court time and call-outs to promote officers to pursue DRE work.

The checkpoint Friday stopped 1,016 vehicles and resulted in one operating under the influence arrest, one charge each of operating after suspension, illegal attachment of registration plates and an operator in violation of restrictions for not wearing glasses; as well as six other violations.

Since the impaired driver enforcement campaign began in November, the 11 details — with two checkpoints — resulted in 16 OUI charges — alcohol and drugs, six operating after suspension charges, one warrant of arrest and 68 other charges.

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