Effectiveness of Sobriety Checkpoints
Special Problems in Criminal Justice
December 1, 2010
A good theoretical basis exists for believing that properly conducted sobriety checkpoints and campaigns, may reduce drunk driving, and data from multiple checkpoint programs support this belief. The courts have upheld the constitutionality of checkpoints, opposing those who believe them to violate the fourth amendment. Each year, more deaths result for alcohol-related automobile accidents than any other cause. Sobriety checkpoints, along with media coverage and cooperation from multiple groups, are a necessity to reduce the amount of drunk driving in America.
For many years, the law enforcement community has attempted to detect impaired drivers through numerous innovative efforts and measures. The problem of driving under the influence (DUI) is well known throughout society, yet, even with all of the strategies used to remove these drivers from U.S. highways, it continues to cause needless and tragic loss of life each year. When will this end? When will society no longer tolerate drunk driving? Until that time, the law enforcement community must attempt to contain the carnage inflicted upon law-abiding citizens by impaired drivers. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatal injury and the second-leading cause of nonfatal injury in the U.S. Young adults 15 to 24 years old are particularly at risk for motor-vehicle-related injury (Miller, Galbraith, Lawrence, 1998). Driving under the influence of alcohol is the dominant risk factor for serious highway crashes. General drunk-driving deterrence can be achieved with programs of frequent, highly visible checkpoints. Checkpoints also offer specific deterrence by apprehending drunk drivers. One study estimates that 87% of the drinking drivers apprehended at sobriety checkpoints would not be apprehended otherwise (Miller et al., 1998). The consequential deaths of drunk driving are not “accidents.” They are the inevitable results of behavior that can be prevented. Although there is no one solution to this problem, sobriety checkpoints are an important component of programs that have reduced the incidence of drunken driving and the resulting loss of life. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints on drunk driving. It will review the constitutionality of the checkpoints, along with reviewing several studies on checkpoints administered in certain areas or states and their effectiveness on drunk driving and alcohol related accidents. Literature Review
Operationalizing Drunk Driving
According to national Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, 16,653 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 200, an increase of more than 800 deaths from 1999. This represented the largest percentage increase on record (Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 2002). By some estimates, about two out of every five Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives (Greene, 2003). An analysis conducted on the effects on crashes of DUI-checkpoints indicated that crashes involving alcohol are reduced by 17 percent at a minimum and that all crashes, independent of alcohol involvement, are reduced by about 10 to 15 percent (Erke, Goldenbeld, Vaa, 2009). Further research has revealed that authorities make 1 arrest for driving under the influence for every 772 episodes of driving within 2 hours of drinking and for every 88 occurrences of driving over the legal limit in the United States (Zador, Krawchuk, Moore, 2000). These tragic statistics dramatically illustrate that driving under the influence is a serious problem. Sobriety checkpoints have the greatest deterrent value of all impaired driving enforcement methods, and the public (87 percent in 2005) supports these measures (Kanable, 2006). Prevalence of Sobriety Checkpoints