Saco Police in collaboration with the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety has released a public service announcement, a still of which is shown here, pointing out the consequences when someone drives impaired. The video, produced by the city’s communications department, comes as the police department has seen OUI arrests soar from Jan. 1 to late August over the same period in 2021. Courtesy Image

SACO — The numbers speak for themselves. Many more people have been arrested for driving under the influence in Saco so far this year than the year before. In fact, 2 1/2 times more.

Saco Deputy Police Chief Corey Huntress said figures show that from Jan. 1 through Aug. 23, 149 people were arrested and charged with driving under the influence during regular routine patrols. In 2021, there were 58 in the same time period.

“It’s an issue,” said Saco Police Chief Jack Clements. What is causing the uptick is unknown. Clements wondered  whether people being cooped up during the pandemic and now on vacation is playing a role in the increase in impaired driving cases.

Ten miles down Route 1 in Kennebunk, a special sobriety checkpoint Aug. 13 saw six drivers arrested for OUI in a five-hour period.

“Wow, that was a lot,” said Kennebunk Police Chief Robert MacKenzie of the arrests during the sobriety detail. But overall, he said there doesn’t seem to be any major increase  in the number of OUI arrests in Kennebunk the last three to four years.

Kennebunk Police arrested six motorists for OUI during a five hour period Aug. 13 during a sobriety checkpoint. Police here say while that is a lot, overall the numbers of OUI arrests don’t change much, year to year. Courtesy Photo

Kennebunkport and Biddeford police both reported that the number of their OUI arrests is similar to last year.


In Old Orchard Beach, Police Chief Elise Chard said so far there hasn’t been much change in the first eight months of the year. In 2021, there were 63 during that time frame and 54 so far this year, she said.

“I think if we were not so short handed it may be more,” said Chard, but officers are busy with calls for service.

Huntress said the arrests in Saco take place across all shifts. He said officers are stopping the same number of cars, but are seeing more people driving impaired — primarily with alcohol, but with drugs as well.

“It’s concerning, ” said Huntress. “It really takes the public to take the attitude that it’s not okay to go out and drink and drive. It really has to come from the general population to change that attitude.”

He noted Saco’s OUI arrest numbers — and wondered aloud now many more people there were who were driving impaired but didn’t get stopped.

“We’ve just got to keep educating,” Huntress said.


To help on the educational piece, the city of Saco’s communications department in concert with Saco Police and the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety has put out a 32-second video that shows a dark night, a dark road, and someone getting into a car and turning on the ignition. The YouTube link is:

“When you drive drunk, you don’t know what you might lose — freedom and reputation, financial stability, your life and the lives of others,” intones Clements, the Saco police chief. Officers from various departments ask, one by one, “please don’t drink and drive.”

Then there’s the legal piece. A first conviction for impaired driving can result in a 150-day license suspension and a $500 fine, but that could include 48 hours in jail pending the blood-alcohol level, whether the driver was speeding, attempted to elude an officer or there was a passenger under 21 in the vehicle. A conviction for refusing to take the blood alcohol test results in a 275-day license suspension, 96 hours in jail and a $600 fine, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety. Penalties increase for additional convictions. An impaired driver in a fatal crash can face a manslaughter conviction, with lengthy prison penalties.

According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, the 2019 statistics — the latest available, show Maine had 50 alcohol impaired driving fatalities that year. It noted 73.7 percent of drivers in those fatalities had blood-alcohol levels of .15 percent or higher — nearly twice the legal .08 limit for people over 21. The agency noted in 85.7 percent of fatal crashes involving repeat offenders the drivers had blood alcohol limits of more than .15 percent.

In Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, police say people seem to be using alternative ways to get home after a night out.

“I do think that since ride-share, Uber, Lyft, and those types of services have been offered, the amount of impaired driving has been positively influenced whether we see the results in arrests or not,” said Kennebunk Police Sgt. Kevin Schoff. “There are many people taking advantage of these services.”


Kennebunkport Police Chief Craig Sanford agreed. He and Schoff both  mentioned a low-speed vehicle company operating in the Lower Village and Dock Square area that gets people home, though Sanford said police do deal with late night vehicle crashes that tend to be alcohol-related.

“I do think that the younger generation is less likely to offend as they have always had the access to the Uber, Lyft type options, where the older generations did not, and do not think in the same way the younger people do,” said Chard in Old Orchard Beach. “I think we just have to continue to step up enforcement on this to try to keep those who choose to drink and drive off the roadways through traffic enforcement.”

MacKenzie in Kennebunk agreed that education is key, “and also people knowing that we are out there looking.”

“The checkpoint was one way to do it,” MacKenzie said of that Aug. 13 event. “And then I think also putting out there when we are doing extra patrols. Just that we do those, you know, periodically, and I think put the word out there it does make people think twice.”

Huntress said he believes targeted details do help.

“I think it brings about public awareness as people see more police cruisers on the road with vehicles being stopped and when there are public notifications about sobriety check points,” said Huntress. “These actions hopefully give people pause and they make better choices before consuming liquor and then operating. “

Clements asked people to make alternate arrangements to get home after a night out.

“I cannot stress enough to people ‘get an Uber, Lyft, a cab, a friend to come get you,’” said Clements. “Nothing good will come of drinking and driving.”

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