CHECKPOINTS: What’s The Big Deal?

Sobriety checkpoints scare the life out of you? Make you change your weekend plans? Make you feel like you are a target?

Little need to fear. The reality is that the chances of you getting arresting for operating while intoxicated after pulling into a sobriety checkpoint are very, very low. How low? Recent statistics from 2016 from Northeastern Tennessee show that of 3,300 drivers who entered checkpoints, only 7 were arrested for OWI. A whopping .2%!

Most drivers were cited for lack of vehicle registration, 43, with equipment violations, 27, nearly tripling the driving under the influence charges.

Is it different here? Yes, but not enough to establish the effectiveness of checkpoints.

In Lafayette, sobriety checkpoints generally yield a couple of arrests for OWI per checkpoint. While not the disproportionate results witnessed in Tennessee, it’s clearly not enough to justify the significant outlay in man-hours and resources that are required to set up a constitutionally-compliant checkpoint.

Law enforcement will acknowledge that sobriety checkpoints are the least effective way to effect arrests for intoxicated drivers. The reality is within five minutes of setting up, anyone seeking to avoid a checkpoint can find out where it is with a multitude of mobile apps and social media.

What law enforcement will insist on, however, is that sobriety checkpoints are a valuable means of deterrence to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The argument being that simply knowing that there is a sobriety checkpoint keeps impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel. While this may be true, is it enough to justify the actions and expense to set up a checkpoint? The statistics simply do not support it.

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