A Sobriety Checkpoint? What’s That?

You’ve read in the newspaper that there’s going to be a DUI checkpoint in your neighborhood this weekend. What are these checkpoints? Are they legal? What can I expect?

Sobriety CheckpointSobriety checkpoints (also called DUI/DWI checkpoints) are temporary roadblocks used by law enforcement to catch drivers who are operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints are legal and minimally invasive. Since that ruling, 38 states in the U.S., including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have implemented sobriety checkpoints as part of their drunk driving deterrence program. On average, one DUI/DWI arrest is made for every 88 vehicles stopped in a checkpoint.

Law enforcement agencies are required to disclose the time and location of checkpoints before they occur, so you may hear about them on TV or the radio. Signs are generally posted just before approaching a checkpoint warning drivers that a checkpoint is ahead. At a sobriety checkpoint officers will either stop every vehicle or use a pattern to stop certain cars on a public road to investigate if drivers are impaired. Checkpoints are often set up on the weekends or during holidays when there are a higher percentage of drunk drivers on the road. They are also sometimes located near the exits of large public events to help prevent large numbers of drunk drivers from being released into traffic at the same time.

Many people think these checkpoints don’t really work to deter drinking and driving. However, a 2002 Center for Disease Control sobriety checkpoint study concluded that the number of alcohol-related crashes was reduced by 18 – 24% in states that implemented sobriety checkpoints compared to those that did not. Also, Public Health Law research reported in 2009 there is strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of checkpoints as a public health intervention intended to reduce alcohol-impaired driving.

Some people also believe the checkpoints cost lots of money. Conversely, research has shown that for every dollar invested in checkpoints, communities actually save between $6 and $23 in costs from alcohol-related crashes.

The quickest way to get through a checkpoint is to have your driver’s license, registration and insurance identification card ready when you are approached by an officer. Be friendly and courteous. The average stop time in a sobriety checkpoint is about the length of a cycle at a stop light.

Keep in mind that if you are arrested for DUI during a sobriety checkpoint, you face the same charges and consequences had you been pulled over on the highway. Those consequences can include losing your driver’s license, paying fines, jail time, probation and alcohol counseling. If you lose your driving privileges, you may be able to get back on the road with an ignition interlock device, like the L250, installed in your vehicle. Visit www.lifesafer.com for more information.

Remember, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over!