The effect of random alcohol screening in reducing motor vehicle crash injuries

Am J Prev Med. 1999 Jan;16(1 Suppl):57-67. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(98)00116-0.


Objective: Programs that randomly stop drivers to detect alcohol use have been introduced as a deterrence measure for drinking and driving. The objective of this review is to determine if this random screening reduces fatalities and injuries. The two types of random screening programs included are Random Breath Testing and Sobriety Checkpoints.

Methods: Fourteen studies met inclusion criteria, which required an evaluation of a random screening program with a control population or baseline comparison. Proportional decreases in total or alcohol-related fatalities or injuries were the outcome of interest.

Main results: All fourteen studies found that random screening was effective in reducing fatalities and injuries. The decreases found had wide variation, but did not depend on the size of the population. Alcohol-related fatalities generally showed the greatest decreases, ranging from 8% to 71%. The few multivariate analyses showed that random screening significantly reduced crashes and injuries.

Conclusions: Random screening appears to be effective in a wide range of both United States and Australian populations. Although there are many limitations to the studies reviewed, such as the difficulty in determining alcohol involvement and the inability to control for the presence of other drunk driving reduction programs, the weight of the evidence indicates that random screening reduces fatalities and injuries. There was some disagreement among studies as to how long the effects of random alcohol screening can be sustained and the level of enforcement necessary, and these remain questions to be answered.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Alcohol Drinking* / prevention & control
  • Australia
  • Automobile Driving / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Breath Tests
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Social Control, Formal
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control