Today the American Beverage Institute (ABI), a restaurant trade association, urged law enforcement agencies to reconsider holding sobriety checkpoints over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Instead, ABI encourages police to employ roving patrols – during which police patrol the streets and highways looking for erratic drivers – because they are more effective than checkpoints.
“Sobriety checkpoints have been proven ineffective at stopping drunk drivers,” said ABI Managing Director Sarah Longwell. “Roadblocks target moderate drinkers instead of the root cause of today’s drunk driving problem—hard core alcohol abusers.”
The average BAC of a drunk driver in a fatal crash is .19% — that’s more than double the legal limit. Because checkpoints are highly visible by design and publicized in advance, they are easily avoided by the chronic drunk drivers who cause the majority of alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities.
A 2009 University of Maryland study found that checkpoints don’t have “any impact on public perceptions, driver behaviors, or alcohol-related crashes, police citations for impaired driving, and public perceptions of alcohol-impaired driving risk.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that after reviewing checkpoint programs in several states “changes in awareness, perceptions, and self-reported behavior did not occur.” Additionally, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), “typically, sobriety checkpoints do not yield a large volume of DUI arrests.”
For example, in 2008, over a million vehicles went through 1,469 California checkpoints. Police arrested just one-third of 1 percent of those motorists for drunk driving. A similar analysis in Arizona found that over a two year span, sobriety checkpoints arrested less than one percent of 46,000 drivers stopped and cost taxpayers over $140,000.
State Supreme Court Cases from both Pennsylvania and New Hampshire revealed that roving patrols caught 10 times more drunk drivers than checkpoints. According to the FBI “It is proven that saturation efforts will bring more DUI arrests than sobriety checkpoints.” Patrols also stop speeding, aggressive, drowsy, and distracted drivers because officers can catch them in the act.
“Having a glass of wine with Christmas dinner, a beer while watching a football game, or a Champagne toast at midnight are perfectly safe and legal activities,” Longwell continued. “Police tactics should focus on stopping dangerous drunk drivers, not responsible drinkers.”