WASHINGTON – Today the American Beverage Institute (ABI), a restaurant trade association, urged law enforcement agencies to reconsider holding sobriety checkpoints over Labor Day weekend. 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. Roving patrols can target drunk drivers as well as distracted, speeding, and drowsy drivers.”
The average BAC of a drunk driver in a fatal crash is 0.18% — that’s 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 West Virginia from October 2010 to September 2011, state police conducted 258 sobriety checkpoints involving about 130,000 vehicles. After inconveniencing over a hundred thousand drivers, officers only made 189 DUI arrests or 3.2 percent of the 5,900 total statewide DUI arrests.
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 beer at a baseball game or a glass of sangria at an end-of-summer barbeque is perfectly safe and legal,” Longwell continued. “Police tactics should focus on stopping dangerous drunk drivers, not responsible drinkers.”