Night In The Life Of A Trooper Gives Sober View Of Drinking

December 12, 1990|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,SUN STAFF

MOUNT AIRY - EDITOR'S NOTE: Carroll County Sun reporter Maria Archangelo and photographer Lloyd Fox rode along Friday night with state police Tfc.

Matt Breeding on his regular patrol of the county south of Westminster.

State police statistics show that seven of the 24 people killed so far this year on county roads died in alcohol-related accidents. The story and accompanying photographs spotlight National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week, Dec. 9-15.

MOUNT AIRY -- Forty-five minutes before the 637th person to be arrested in Carroll for drunken driving this year drove through the intersection of Ridge and Watersville roads, the tell-tale screech of brakes and the crash of metal brought nearby residents running from their homes.

When Richard Christopher Morgan reached the intersection shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday in his father's blue GMC pickup, the roadside was still dotted with police cars, emergency equipment and curious bystanders.

A twisted two-tone blue Ford pickup truck lay on its roof against an embankment off the southbound shoulder, waiting for a wrecker.

Earlier, witnesses told the state police trooper that the driver had run from the truck after rear-ending a Mitsubishi pickup driven by 16-year-old Jennifer Mullins of Mount Airy.

The driver was missing, the mess on the side of the road was going to take a while to clean up, and Tfc. Matt Breeding had been on the job for exactly 64 minutes.

"Looks like we have a little bit of excitement going tonight," Breeding said before he jumped into his unmarked patrol car and roared off to search for the Ford's driver.

The excitement had waned considerably by the time Morgan entered the intersection at 12:49 a.m., but the overturned truck still was attracting attention.

When the Oldsmobile Regency in front of Morgan's truck slowed, the whine of screeching tires and the bang of crashing metal brought neighbors on Ridge Road running for the second time in an hour.

"Oh, God, another one," said Breeding as he jumped into his car for the second time, drove a short way down the road and parked his car behind Morgan's truck, which had careened to a stop by the side of the road.

* The second crash was more serious. The Oldsmobile's trunk was smashed: In a second, the back of the car gone. The trunk's lid stuck awkwardly from Morgan's grille.

A passenger in the Olds, Beverly Layne, 40, of Mount Airy, had an injured foot. The car's driver, her 41-year-old husband, Charles, was unhurt.

"Is that lady going to be all right?" Morgan asked.

Breeding told him to go stand by his vehicle.

A Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Co. ambulance carried Beverly to Frederick Memorial Hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries and released later the same night.

And while the activity at the scene of the accidents was just about finished at 1:21 a.m., Richard Morgan's night was just beginning.

"I believe Morgan has been drinking," Breeding said. "I gave him a preliminary breath test, and he's over the limit."

* "Do you know the English alphabet?" Breeding asked Morgan as the pair stood on the side of the road.

"Yes, sir," said the 22-year-old, who repeated the alphabet with only a few pauses.

"Now, do you have any problems with your balance or your ankles?"

Breeding asked.

"No," said Morgan. "Well, my right ankle hurts."

"All right, this is what I want you to do. I want you to lift your right foot off the ground and extend it like this for 30 seconds," the trooper said, standing on one leg with the other stretched out in front of him about 12 inches off the ground. "Can you do that?"

"I know I can do it, but I'm too cold," Morgan replied.

"I'm cold and I've been holding my leg like this for at least 60 seconds. I'm only asking you to do it for 30," Breeding said.

"I can do it, but it's too cold," Morgan said.

"Are you going to argue with me about this, or are you going to take the test?" Breeding asked. "Because if you are not going to take it, I can arrest you right now. If you take the tests and you pass, there is a chance that I won't take you in."

"I told you I'm too cold," Morgan said.

"All right, I don't have time to stand here and argue with you. You're under arrest," Breeding said as he clicked the handcuffs around Morgan's wrists and led him to the cruiser.

* "There are two kinds of drivers: the kind that has had an accident and the kind that is going to have an accident," said Breeding, a resident trooper who has patrolled the county south of Westminster for the last 6 years.

The 31-year-old was in the front seat of his white Chevrolet Caprice, driving Morgan to the Westminster state police barracks, where the younger New Windsor man would decide if he was going to take a Breathalyzer test or not.

Melodies by the soft rock bands Air Supply and the Doobie Brothers floated through the car, obscured occasionally by the clamor of the police radio. Conversation turned to professions. Morgan said that he was a surveyor.

"It's a profession that has been around for a long time," he said.

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