LYNN — State Police are stepping up highway patrols near work zones and in areas with high rates of crashes and drunken driving, a move that comes after a construction crew was struck by an alleged drunk driver for the fourth time in 10 days.
The increased enforcement will begin this weekend, said State Police spokesman David Procopio, who said that impaired drivers, not the configuration of construction zones or the safety measures used to protect them, are to blame for the recent collisions.
“The real problem is drunk or drugged drivers and the reckless and irresponsible behaviors of people who get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or using controlled narcotics,” he said. “This is a reflection of the wider problem of drunk and drugged driving on all roads, which is magnified somewhat at work zones.”
Patrols will be added across the state, and police will conduct sobriety checkpoints near construction zones, he said. State and federal grants will cover a portion of the additional enforcement.
Thomas Tinlin, the state's highway administrator, said state, federal, and industry officials are meeting to discuss whether additional steps can be taken to protect roadway work areas.
“Impaired drivers are a menace on our roads regardless of whether there is a work zone in place or not,” he said.
Authorities announced the extra patrols after a Newburyport man was arraigned on charges that he was driving drunk around midnight Thursday when he hit a Revere police cruiser assigned to a work site on Route 1 in Saugus.
According to police, Denny D. Miller told a trooper he had been drinking beer at a Boston Red Sox game before the crash.
“I had [four] beers and I fell asleep and got into a car crash,” he told his wife by phone after his arrest, according to a police report. “I am fine. I didn’t get hurt.”
Miller, 43, pleaded not guilty in Lynn District Court to second-offense drunk driving.
Prosecutor Alexander Grimes said that Revere police Captain Terence Reardon saw Miller’s car speeding toward his cruiser in his rearview mirror.
“It looked like it didn’t even slow down before it hit me,” Reardon, 60, told police, according to the report.
The right lane of the highway was closed while a crew from Aggregate Industries filled potholes, Grimes said. The lane closure was marked and a truck carrying an illuminated arrow was used to alert drivers, he said.
After the crash, an Aggregate Industries employee helped Miller out of his car by breaking the windshield, Grimes said.
A trooper found Miller sitting against a guardrail about 10 feet away from Reardon, who was being helped by another Revere police officer, the report stated.
“I’m so sorry for what happened,” the report quoted Miller as saying. “I didn’t mean to crash into him.”
Police reported that Miller was unsteady on his feet and smelled like an alcoholic beverage, Grimes said. He was arrested after he failed three sobriety tests, and later refused to take a breathalyzer test, he said.
Miller’s lawyer, Randy Chapman, said Miller is eligible to be treated as a first-time offender under state law because a previous drunken driving conviction in Ohio happened more than 20 years ago.
Miller plans to defend himself against the charges, he said.
“He may have dozed off at some point,” Chapman said.
Miller works in the financial services industry handling retirement and college funds, Chapman said. He was released on $2,500 bail, and ordered not to drive. He is due back in court Aug. 24.
Reardon sustained minor injuries, said Revere police Chief Joseph Cafarelli.
“He’ll be stiff for a little while,” he said. “He’s doing well.”
Reardon’s cruiser was totaled in the crash, which pushed the back of the SUV into the rear passenger doors, Cafarelli said.
Jeffrey Arruda, the Aggregate Industries employee who helped Miller from his car, said the crash pushed Reardon’s cruiser about 20 feet.
“There was no braking, just a big, loud bang,” Arruda said.
Arruda said he was injured last summer in a similar crash. He was working on Route 3 in Braintree when a driver, who was allegedly drunk, slammed into the truck he was in.
“To be honest, people don’t care,” Arruda said. “Think about the people who are in those setups. They have families and they want to go home, just like you.”
Harold MacGilvray, president of the Massachusetts Municipal Police Coalition, said the recent crashes clearly show that drivers need to be more aware of work zones.
“People are always in a rush, they often don’t pay attention,” he said. “It can be very dangerous for an officer, or anyone else on the job site.”