Why are sobriety checkpoints not widely adopted as an enforcement strategy in the United States?

Accid Anal Prev. 2003 Nov;35(6):897-902. doi: 10.1016/s0001-4575(02)00097-0.


Sobriety checkpoints have been used by police in the United States for at least the past two decades to enforce impaired driving laws. Research has indicated that sobriety checkpoints are effective in reducing drinking and driving and alcohol-related fatal crashes. Despite this evidence, many police agencies have been unenthusiastic about using checkpoints. Information was collected from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia on the use of sobriety checkpoints. A total of 37 states and the District of Columbia reported conducting sobriety checkpoints at least once or twice during the year. Only 11 states reported that checkpoints were conducted on a weekly basis. Thirteen states do not conduct checkpoints either because of legal or policy issues. More detailed information was collected from five states that conduct checkpoints frequently and matched with information from five similar states that conduct checkpoints infrequently. States with frequent checkpoint programs had several common features such as program themes, support from task forces and citizen activist groups, use of a moderate number of police at the checkpoints, and use of all available funding mechanisms (federal, state, local) to support them. States with infrequent checkpoints claimed a lack of funding and police resources for not conducting more checkpoints, preferred saturation patrols over checkpoints because they were more "productive," and used large numbers of police officers at checkpoints. Ways to overcome perceived barriers to checkpoint use are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / diagnosis
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Humans
  • Social Control, Formal*
  • United States