Ramah Navajo PD cracks down on speeders, drunken drivers

Copyright © 2008
Gallup Independent

By Jim Tiffin
Cibola County Bureau
RAMAH — Police in Ramah are participating in a special traffic enforcement program, called “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest,” Ramah Navajo Police Chief Val Panteah said.

Enforcement begins today and lasts through Sept. 1.

“We will have saturation patrols and special sobriety checkpoints looking for drivers who are under the influence or not wearing their seat belts,” he said.

“We want to reduce injuries and fatalities, and we will be using Indian Highway Safety funds for this enforcement,” he said.

Officers who will participate in the checkpoints and saturation patrols will be off duty and paid by the special funding.

The main traffic through the community is along New Mexico Route 53. “Not too many 18-wheelers come through though,” he said.

“When they do, its usually a good indication that they are trying to avoid the port of entry (in Gallup).

“We need probable cause, to find some legal reason to stop these trucks,” he said.

Many have equipment problems, such as one headlight or taillight out, giving officers a reason to check the driver and the load.

Most of the heavy trucks that travel N.M. 53 are large gravel trucks. When they do not cover their loads, especially if they are speeding, gravel often flies out from the top of the truck and strikes a following vehicle, damaging a windshield or breaking a headlight, creating a safety problem.

“We participate in other enforcement programs during the year, including ‘Click It, Or Ticket,’ and a special holiday enforcement,” he said.

“Our saturation patrols will be throughout the community 24 hours a day through Sept. 1,” he said.

“We will have at least one sobriety checkpoint, but it has not yet been determined when or where,” he said,

Panteah said there are 10 officers in the department who will be working the streets and the highway and conducting the checkpoints.

Most of the officers are cross certified with New Mexico State Police and have jurisdiction not only in Ramah but in Cibola County as well, he said.

Another road, BIA Road 125, is also part of the enforcement.
Field sobriety tests will be administered first, followed by a Breathalyzer test. If the driver refuses the Breathalyzer, he or she may be arrested based on their performance solely during the field sobriety tests, Panteah said.

Violators will be cited and arrested, and vehicles will be seized and towed if the drivers are found to be driving while intoxicated, he said.

To contact reporter Jim Tiffin call (505) 285-4560 or e-mail: jtiffin.independent@yahoo.com.