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Traffic Inj Prev. 2004 Sep;5(3):220-7.

Sobriety checkpoints: evidence of effectiveness is strong, but use is limited.

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Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Calverton, Maryland, USA.


There is substantial and consistent evidence from research that highly publicized, highly visible, and frequent sobriety checkpoints in the United States reduce impaired driving fatal crashes by 18% to 24%. Although checkpoints are not conducted in 13 states for legal or policy reasons, there is strong evidence that if conducted appropriately, checkpoints would save lives in the other states. However, a recent survey of checkpoint use has demonstrated that despite the efforts of the U.S. Department of Transportation to encourage checkpoint use through publications, providing funds for equipment, and for officer overtime expenses, only about a dozen of the 37 states that conduct checkpoints do so on a weekly basis. The survey found that lack of local police resources and funding, lack of support by task forces and citizen activists, and the perception that checkpoints are not productive or cost effective are the main reasons for their infrequent use. This article discusses each of these problems and suggests a method for local communities to implement checkpoints without depending on state or federal funds. Low-staffing sobriety checkpoints conducted by as few as three to five officers have been shown to be just as effective as checkpoints conducted by 15 or more officers. A modified sobriety checkpoint program using passive alcohol sensors ("PASpoints") can be implemented by small- to moderate-sized communities in the United States to deter impaired driving. If implemented in a majority of communities, this strategy has a potential level of effectiveness similar to the high level achieved by several Australian states in their random breath-test (RBT) programs. The PASpoint system calls for a small group of three to five officers on traffic patrol duty to converge on a preset site and conduct a mini-checkpoint, returning to their standard patrol duties within two hours. Within this framework, the PASpoint operation would become a standard driving under the influence (DUI) enforcement technique regularly used within the community's jurisdiction. As a standard traffic enforcement activity, the cost would be covered by the normal enforcement budget.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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