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Police deploying ‘ghost patrols’ to intervene with drunk drivers


Puerto Rico’s police commissioner says “ghost” patrols will be out on island roads during the holidays to intervene with drunk drivers.

By The Star Staff


Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa warned Thursday that there will be ghost patrols on the roads to intervene with drunk drivers.


“We ask all drivers, and also pedestrians, who use public roads to be cautious,” López Figueroa said in a written statement. “Christmas is a busy season on the roads and my cops are vigilant. Hundreds of agents have been deployed on the streets, roads and highways throughout the island. There are about 100 new vehicles called ‘phantoms’, which have joined the preventive patrol. We are going to emphasize intervention with drivers under the influence of alcohol.”


The ‘phantoms’ are the new patrol cars, which at first glance look like just another vehicle. When it approaches a vehicle, the reflection allows the driver to identify the logo of the Police Bureau. With the new fleet, the police will seek to stop those who break traffic laws in real time.


According to the statistics collected for the year, 320 deaths have occurred on island roads to date compared to 240 for the same date in 2020 and 277 in 2019.


The areas that show the greatest increase in the number of fatalities are motorists and people who ride as passengers in crashed vehicles. So far this year, 67 motorists have died compared to 46 for the same period in 2020 and 32 in 2019. As for passengers, the current figure stands at 37, while 24 had been registered for the same date in 2020 and 30 were reported in 2019.


“In 2020 we spent most of the year between ‘lockdown’ and executive orders that established early closing hours and limited the sale of alcohol. So the most accurate comparables should be the 2019 statistics,” the police chief said. “However, this year’s figures are worrying, regardless of whether or not we compare them with previous years. A death on the road is preventable if each one contributes a dose of responsibility.”


Capt. José González Montañez, director of the Highway Patrol Division, noted that among the actions drivers should avoid is looking for or dialing a number on a cell phone, using text messages and adjusting mobile phones and other electronic devices.


González Montañez urged citizens to designate an alternate driver whenever they drink alcoholic beverages during the holidays, and to respect speed limits at all times. He said family members, friends and associates, as well as those in charge of businesses that sell drinks, should do everything possible to prevent a drunk person from taking the wheel.


When it comes to motorists, Lt. Elvis Zeno, assistant director of the Highway Patrol Division, said the behavior of some on the roads facilitates accidents.


“There is a proliferation of bikers, scooters and scramble [races]. The excessive speed factor is present in many of the fatalities,” Zeno said. “There are motorists who drive in a careless way and like to show off doing maneuvers like wheelies. Others do not wear helmets, gloves or proper clothing. In this way they endanger their life and that of their companion.”

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