OCEAN CITY — A sobriety checkpoint in West Ocean City led to major traffic backups in Ocean City on Saturday, the unofficial day the resort and its businesses celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the annual parade.
Shortly after 7 p.m. on Saturday, Maryland State Police (MSP) along with allied law enforcement agencies set up shop along Route 50 just west of the bridge. According to a MSP release, “The goal was to locate impaired drivers and to promote public awareness of the dangers of impaired driving.”
The checkpoint, which ended about 90 minutes after it began, resulted in 291 vehicles being checked and two drivers evaluated for impairment, according to MSP, which was joined by the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, Natural Resources Police and Berlin Police Department as well as State Highway Administration handling traffic responsibilities. One driver was arrested for driving while impaired.
Although business owners feared going on record to state their concerns, many on Saturday night were angered by the decision and location, which backed up traffic for miles in Ocean City. For example, traffic slowed around 32nd Street on Coastal Highway during the checkpoint. At various points, motorists were unable to move at all and one trip from downtown Ocean City to West Ocean City reportedly took over 45 minutes.
During the traffic backup, The Dispatch made a Facebook post alerting motorists of the traffic backup and sobriety checkpoint, resulting in a mixed reaction of comments from those appreciative of the heads up to outrage that the news organization would provide advance word to those who may be impaired and planning to head across the bridge. It’s worth noting MSP and other law enforcement agencies sent out press releases in advance of the holiday weekend detailing sobriety checkpoint plans, although they did not detail where and when they would be held.
“The St. Patrick’s Day weekend is widely celebrated in America as a celebration of Irish and Irish American Culture,” an MSP press release recapping the checkpoint wrote. “Celebrations include prominent displays of the color green, eating and drinking, religious observances, and numerous parades. As a result, there has been a noticeable increase of impaired driving incidents during this time.