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Drunk Driving Sobriety Checkpoints

  1. Detection and Investigation Techniques — An agency considering safety checkpoints should ensure that the officers who staff it are properly trained in detecting alcohol- impaired drivers. The implementation of safety checkpoints that allow legally intoxicated drivers to pass through undetected will not be able to achieve a general deterrence effect. Examples of the kind of actions officers are taking during initial contact with a driver at a checkpoint are:
    1. Request his or her license and registration.
    2. Use a divided attention task (e.g., after requesting the driver's license, while the driver is looking for it, the officer engages him in conversation).
    3. Question the driver regarding his origination/destination, whether he had been drinking, etc.
    Police are using these approaches to try to quickly detect whether a driver has been drinking. Once an officer's suspicion has been raised, further investigation can take place out of the traffic lane without impeding the flow of traffic. These and other approaches are currently being studied. If an officer feels it is necessary to move a suspect's car after he suspects the driver is impaired, it will he necessary for someone other than the suspect to drive the car.
  2. Public Information - To obtain maximum benefit in terms of its general deterrence effect, a safety checkpoint program should he aggressively publicized. The majority of drivers will most likely never encounter a checkpoint, but will only learn of it through media reports (and perhaps by word of mouth). These two valuable forms of public communication will greatly enhance any such program, however, and should be consistently employed.