DMV Targets Underage Drinking, Smoking

The state Department of Motor Vehicles is making it harder for Virginia teenagers to buy tobacco and alcohol.

The DMV has gone statewide with a new driver's license that makes it more difficult to make fake IDs and makes it easier for store clerks to see which customers are too young to buy cigarettes and alcohol.

The old under-21 licenses were horizontal, with pictures taken from a profile view. The new license is vertical, with the driver facing the camera head-on. In addition, the words "Commonwealth of Virginia" are written in a black microprint around the border of the new licenses, making them difficult to forge.

A bar code on the back of the license contains all the information that appears on the front of the license. Eventually, store clerks will be able to scan the bar code to check the age of the customer.

Red print below the driver's photo reads, "Under 21 until . . . " and lists the date when the person turns 21, the legal age for buying alcohol. The same is listed for the date when the driver turns 18, the legal age for buying cigarettes.

Man Dies in Crash of Two Tractor-Trailers

Two tractor-trailer trucks collided early yesterday in southern Fauquier County, killing a 22-year-old passenger and seriously injuring one of the drivers. The accident cut power to 800 residents and caused traffic tie-ups as crews repaired an electric pole snapped during the crash, authorities said.

Killed in the crash at Routes 17 and 29 was Terry Fleming, of Glen Allen, Va., who was a passenger in an 18-wheeler driven by Steven Townsend, 23, also of Glen Allen, said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

Townsend, who was driving a load of meat, was reported in serious condition at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

The other truck, loaded with 45,000 pounds of milk, was driven by Daniel Nissley Jr., 51, of Catlett. He walked away from the crash with minor injuries, police said.

The accident happened just before 1 a.m. when Townsend's northbound rig collided almost head-on with Nissley's.

The Route 29 and Route 17 intersection, classified as dangerous by the Fauquier sheriff's department, is scheduled to be rebuilt in 2005, according to Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Jennings.


Sewage Swamps Hearings on Tickets

A sewage backup at the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles office at 65 K St. NW forced the agency to close the building yesterday and cancel the more than 130 scheduled parking-ticket hearings.

Sewage flowed into the basement of the three-story building, at times splattering on employees there, leaving behind a stench that forced the evacuation of the public and most of the 70 people who work in the building, said Acting DMV Director Sherryl Hobbs Newman.

The second and third floors of the building--which house parking ticket hearing rooms and other DMV offices--should be open today after a cleanup effort that continued until yesterday evening, Hobbs Newman said. But the basement area, where property-related hearings are held, will remain closed through the week.

To check on whether the building has reopened today, the public can call the city Office of Emergency Management at 202-727-6161.


Montgomery Resident Leads Ethics Panel

A former Montgomery County legislator instrumental in passage of Maryland's first ethics law for elected officials will head a commission studying whether the state also needs an ethics code for lobbyists.

Donald Robertson was appointed yesterday by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany), Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) and Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) as chairman of the 13-member commission.

Robertson, a Democrat, represented Montgomery County in the House of Delegates for 20 years, serving as majority leader from 1979 to 1987 and speaker pro tem from 1987 to 1989.

The commission will look at the current lobbying law, which limits spending by lobbyists on public officials and requires them to file spending reports. The commission will consider whether the law should be strengthened and whether a code of ethics should be added.

The commission includes four registered lobbyists, two senators and three delegates. It is to report its findings to the governor and legislative leaders by Dec. 31.

5,000 in Allegany Urged to Boil Water

More than 5,000 Allegany County residents have been advised to boil their water because of sediment stirred up by fluctuating levels in three water tanks.

The Town of Lonaconing issued the boil advisory on Friday for water customers in Lonaconing, Barton and Midland, which all are served by the Lonaconing system.

"It's just a precautionary measure," Town Secretary Sue Nightingale said. "The water is still safe to use for bathing and washing, but it needs to be boiled for at least one minute before drinking or cooking."

Town officials said they didn't know what was causing the water fluctuation or how long the problem would persist.

Water service in the area was interrupted for three days last week by a faulty pump.

Grants Back Frostburg High-Tech Center

The federal Appalachian Regional Commission has approved a $462,000 grant to help pay for roads and sewers for a high-technology business park at Frostburg State University.

In addition, the U.S. Economic Development Administration is processing a related grant of $550,000, and the state is working on a $259,000 grant toward the $1.4 million project, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) said yesterday.

Allegany County will contribute $28,800 to the project, Sarbanes said.

He said the Allegany Business Center would create as many as 290 jobs.


"Some of the lows we're seeing at this time of year are really extraordinarily low, but by historical standards this is a fairly short event so far."

-- Robert M. Hirsch, chief hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, on the drought.