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Sobriety Checkpoints: An Effective Tool to Reduce DWI Fatalities

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 72 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2005 Pages: 26-29
Mary Ann Viverette
Date Published
July 2005
4 pages
This article presents cumulative research evidence of the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints in reducing drunk-driving crashes and outlines the features of a cost-effective program.
Research has shown that the best ways to reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes are high-profile enforcement efforts, especially regularly conducted sobriety checkpoints. Recent studies found that such checkpoints can reduce the alcohol-related crash death toll by 20 percent. Yet law enforcement agencies, the public, and the media currently have a low level of interest in ongoing programs of routine and frequent sobriety checkpoints. Perhaps this is because of a belief that the problem is no longer serious; and in the case of law enforcement agencies, that checkpoints are too costly in an era of tight budgets. Research shows that these perceptions are clearly wrong. Drunk driving continues to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths, and when conducted in a cost-effective manner, frequent sobriety checkpoints constitute a feasible means of significantly reducing the number of such deaths. Dispelling the notion that checkpoints are a drain on personnel resources, some agencies use as few as three to five officers for operations without compromising their effectiveness. Using passive alcohol sensors is another measure that has increased checkpoints' efficiency and effectiveness. Regarding their cost-effectiveness, one study showed that checkpoints resulted in an estimated annual savings of $7.9 million for a community of 100,000: $3.1 million for fatalities avoided, $4.5 million for nonfatal injuries avoided, and $333,000 for property damage avoided. For every dollar spent on a sobriety checkpoint program, a community can expect to save more than $6. 21 References