How Effective Are DUI Checkpoints?

Posted on by datateam

With New Year’s Eve approaching, police forces across the country are preparing for a significant spike in driving under the influence (DUI) and alcohol-related injuries. DUI checkpoints are a common method of controlling safety in high-traffic areas during this holiday.

These checkpoints claim to reduce DUI-related deaths and accidents. However, opponents repeatedly call the effectiveness of these checkpoints into question. How effective are DUI checkpoints in reducing the harm caused by drunk driving?

California DUI Statistics

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a high number of DUI-related crashes, injuries, and deaths take place in the state every year.

  • Drunk drivers are involved in one of every three traffic deaths in the United States.
  • Between 2003 and 2012, 10,327 California residents died in accidents involving drunk drivers.
  • In California, 1.8% of adults report driving after drinking too much. In comparison, 1.9% of adults nationwide report driving under the influence.
  • In 2013, 1,197 people died in drunk driving accidents in California.
  • In 2013, police arrested 160,388 individuals in California on DUI-related charges.
  • Of the 2013 arrests, 93,987 individuals received first-offender suspensions.

New Year’s Eve has long been the night with the highest number of DUI arrests and incidents in California. Parties, binge drinking, and drug use all contribute the number of people who ultimately decide to get behind the wheel on this holiday.

  • Between December 29, 2016 and January 1, 2017, California Highway Patrol officers arrested 767 people for DUI.
  • Between December 29, 2017 and January 1, 2018, CHP officers arrested 936 people for DUI. This is a 22% increase from the year before.
  • During Thanksgiving 2017, CHP officers arrested 1,057 people for DUI.
  • During Christmas 2017, 917 DUI arrests occurred.
  • In San Diego alone, police arrested 50 people for DUI during the 2017 New Year’s festivities.

How DUI Checkpoints Work

DUI checkpoints, also called sobriety checkpoints, are traffic blocks that police officers install to catch drunk drivers. Usually, drivers will pull up to a DUI checkpoint and an officer will signal them to pull over. During this stop, the officer will ask for the driver’s license and registration. The officer will then ask questions related to the driver’s activities that night. If the officer does not suspect that the driver is under the influence, the driver will be free to proceed.

However, abnormal speech and movements may signal to the officer that the driver is impaired. If this is the case, the officer will ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and complete a field sobriety test.

  • First, the officer will ask the driver to stand on one leg with his or her arms to the side. The officer will ask the driver to lift his or her foot at least six inches off the ground.
  • Next, the officer will ask the driver to walk a straight line with one foot ahead of the other.
  • Finally, the officer will ask the driver to keep his or her head still while following a moving object with the eyes only.

Are DUI Checkpoints Effective?

For the most part, DUI checkpoints are effective in lowering the risk of drunk driving accidents in their areas. In fact, they can result in a 20% decrease of these incidents, saving hundreds of potential lives. These checkpoints also work as deterrents to drunk driving in the first place.

A study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found that the implementation of regular checkpoints in two rural West Virginia counties led to a 70% reduction of drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.05% or higher compared to surrounding counties. While these checkpoints are largely effective, many police forces do not regularly implement them due to their tediousness and size.

However, DUI checkpoints do not need a dozen or more officers to run effectively. The regular checkpoints studied by the Pacific Institute were not large-scale operations. In fact, three to four officers manned these weekly roadblocks and still managed to be effective in DUI reduction. Regular, highly visible checkpoints have a greater chance of reducing DUIs in communities than yearly checkpoints.

We wish you a safe holiday season this year. Remember to have a designated driver or use a ride share app or taxi to get home after a New Year’s event. Stay safe, and don’t drink and drive.