DEPUTIES ARREST 22; TOW 23 CARS UNLICENSED DRIVERS TARGETS.
SANTA CLARITA - Traffic on San Fernando Road slowed to a crawl Thursday morning as sheriff's deputies enforced a driver's license checkpoint, netting more than 20 motorists driving without valid licenses.
Concerned about an increase in hit-and-run collisions they blame on unlicensed drivers, Santa Clarita sheriff's officials held their first driver's license checkpoint in nearly a decade.
``We believe there is a link between hit-and-run crashes and unlicensed drivers,'' said Deputy Tony Arnold. ``If someone is involved in a collision and doesn't have a license, a lot of times they're afraid of getting caught driving.''
From 9 a.m. to noon, more than a dozen traffic deputies stopped all northbound traffic on San Fernando Road near Oak Ridge Drive.
Those who did not have driver's licenses or were driving with suspended licenses were handcuffed, arrested and jailed at the sheriff's station. Their vehicles were towed to an impound yard.
A 26-year-old Santa Clarita man whose license was suspended about eight months ago for driving under the influence said he made a U-turn when he realized the cause of the traffic up ahead. A motorcycle deputy then pulled over the man, who declined to give his name.
``I was on my way to court,'' said the man, who was due to get his license back in about four months. ``I didn't have a ride, so I had to drive. I screwed up and tried to turn around. I'm not against this (checkpoint.) I know I screwed up.''
Twenty-two people were arrested for driving without valid licenses and 23 vehicles were towed, Arnold said. All but two of the vehicles will be impounded for 30 days.
The fine for driving with a suspended license or no license is $1,300, Arnold said. Including city fees and other taxes, the fee for having a vehicle towed and impounded for 30 days is $900 to $1,000.
Valencia resident Joe Morelli and his wife, Rose, passed through the checkpoint and, despite their concern about some cartons of ice cream melting in the car, they praised the operation.
``I was in an accident two years ago with an unlicensed driver,'' Joe Morelli said. ``Cost me $10,000 to get the car fixed. This (checkpoint) is a good idea. Law-abiding people don't care if they have to show their license. It's the ones who don't have it that care.''
According to Arnold, of the 1,480 vehicles that passed through the checkpoint Thursday, 1,370 were screened.
To avoid any complaints of profiling, deputies asked every driver to produce a valid driver's license. When the traffic backup became too long, however, a block of 110 vehicles was waved through.
Sgt. James Anderson said the traffic division would like to hold a driver's license checkpoint every four months in various, unannounced locations in Santa Clarita.
Arnold said neither the checkpoint nor its location was related to the battle in Sacramento over licensing illegal immigrants.
``It was not racially motivated, it was not racially targeted,'' Arnold said. ``This is about trying to reduce the number of hit-and-run collisions and the number of unlicensed drivers on our roads.''
Amy Raisin Darvish, (661) 257-5254
(1 -- color) A motorist suspected of driving with a valid license is arrested and his car impounded at Thursday's checkpoint.
(2 -- color) Sheriff's deputies check drivers for valid licenses Thursday.
(3) A driver suspected of driving without a valid license waits to be processed and taken to jail during the checkpoint Thursday.
Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Oct 22, 2004|
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