Letters to the Editor

Sarah Longwell: DUI checkpoints catch few drunks but annoy thousands of drivers

It’s estimated that about 40 million people will be traveling this Memorial Day weekend to reach vacation destinations or backyard barbecues – the highest number in 12 years. But congested highways won’t be the only thing aggravating drivers. Police across the country will once again be relying on sobriety checkpoints to catch drunk drivers.

We all want drunks off the road, but checkpoints are ineffective and a poor use of traffic safety resources. For example, a sobriety checkpoint in California earlier this month stopped over 1,500 drivers, but made only 1 DUI arrest. Another in Ohio caught zero. These low success rates are unfortunately a common occurrence.

The lack of results aren’t surprising. The locations and times of DUI checkpoints are publicly available. And since flashing lights and traffic jams associated with checkpoints can be seen from far away, it’s not difficult for a drunk driver to avoid these locations and take an alternate route.

Instead of using valuable traffic safety resources on ineffective enforcement, police should use roving or saturation patrols that have been proven to actively target dangerous drunk drivers without creating a legion of frustrated travelers. That way, Memorial Day drivers can arrive to their destinations safely and headache-free.

Sarah Longwell, Managing Director, American Beverage Institute, Washington D.C.