The holidays are a time of year when law enforcement agencies increasingly target drunk drivers. In keeping with that effort, the federal government, along with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, launched a new anti-DUI campaign this week. During a joint news conference, it was stated that one in four fatal automobile accidents occur during the last two weeks of December and that DUI checkpoints were a way of changing that statistic.
The American Beverage Institute has questioned that tactic, saying there are much more effective tools for fighting incidents of driving under the influence. The spokesperson for ABI said that sobriety checkpoints, often paid for with tax dollars distributed through federal grants, are more of a public relations campaign than a truly effective mechanism to catch drunk drivers. The cost of setting up a checkpoint and paying police officers over-time pay can run many thousands of dollars. The ABI goes on to point out that usually checkpoint locations are highly publicized, meaning chronic abusers avoid the area and the police then target socially responsible drinkers who are driving with a blood alcohol content below the legal limit. The actual numbers of DUI arrests from sobriety checkpoints are generally very low. One recent news article from Florida cited 696 motorists being checked or
detained with only one DUI arrest. Many net no arrests.
ABI advocates the more responsible and less expensive approach of conducting roving saturation patrols. That tactic focuses equipment and manpower in high-DUI areas, and offers the flexibility to react to traffic and field conditions. The officers are trained to identify signs of potential impairment in motorists.
Many law enforcement agencies agree with the increased effectiveness of roving patrols, but still conduct sobriety checkpoints because of available federal funds.