Sobriety Checkpoints

Description of Strategy

At sobriety checkpoints, law enforcement officers use a system to stop drivers to assess their level of alcohol impairment. There are two types of sobriety checkpoints: (1) random breath-testing checkpoints where officers randomly select and test drivers for blood alcohol levels; and (2) selective breath-testing (SBT) checkpoints where officers must have reason to suspect a driver has been drinking before testing. SBT is the only type of sobriety checkpoint used in the United States (Guide to Community Preventive Services, 2012).

One tool used in conjunction with sobriety checkpoints is the passive breath sensor. Passive breath sensors or passive alcohol sensors are small electronic devices, usually built into police flashlights or clipboards that can detect alcohol in the ambient air of a vehicle. The sensors are quick, objective, and provide another source of detection to the officer which may aid in the identification of drunken drivers (Voas & Fell, 2011). Currently the sensors can only detect the presence of alcohol, not the level of alcohol present.

Advocates of sobriety checkpoints consider publicizing the possibility of sobriety checkpoints to be an integral part of the intervention. Announcing the checkpoints fosters a perceived risk of arrest if people choose to drink and drive.

Wyoming does not permit sobriety checkpoints. Checkpoints are prohibited by interpretation of the roadblock statute (Governors Highway Safety Association, 2017).

Also known as...

Mobile command unit, breath testing checkpoints

Discussion of Effectiveness

Alcohol

Evidence supports the use of sobriety checkpoints in reducing alcohol-impaired driving, alcohol-related crashes, and associated fatal and non-fatal injuries (Guide to Community Preventive Services, 2012; University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, 2017; Lenk, Nelson, Toomey, Jones-Webb, and Erickson, 2016). Evidence supports the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints as an individual prevention strategy and as part of a multicomponent strategy (Clapp et al., 2005).

Prescription & Other Drugs

No evidence was located on sobriety checkpoints related to other drug outcomes.

References

Strategy Description

Governors Highway Safety Association. (2017). Sobriety checkpoint laws. Retrieved November 3, 2017.

Guide to Community Preventive Services. (2012). Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: Sobriety checkpoints. Retrieved July 26, 2012.

Lenk, K. M., Nelson, T. F., Toomey, T. L., Jones-Webb, R., & Erickson, D. J. (2016). Sobriety checkpoint and open container laws in the United States: Associations with reported drinking-driving. Traffic Injury Prevention, 17(8), 782-787. doi:10.1080/15389588.2016.1161759

University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (2017). Breath-Testing Checkpoints. Retrieved November 3, 2017.

Voas, R. B., & Fell, J. C. (2011). Preventing impaired driving opportunities and problems. Alcohol Research and Health, 34(2), 225–35.

Evidence Base

Beck, K. H., & Moser, M. L. (2004). Exposure to the sobriety “Checkpoint Strikeforce” campaign in Maryland: Impact on driver perceptions of vulnerability and behavior. Traffic Injury Prevention, 5(2), 101–106. doi:10.1080/15389580490434908

Clapp, J.D., Johnson, M., Voas, R.B., Lange, J.E., Shillington, A., & Russell, C. (2005). Reducing DUI among US college students: Results of an environmental prevention trial. Addiction, 100, 327-334.

Fell, J. C., Lacey, J. H., & Voas, R. B. (2004). Sobriety checkpoints: Evidence of effectiveness is strong, but use is limited. Traffic Injury Prevention, 5(3), 220–227. doi:10.1080/15389580490465247

Guide to Community Preventive Services. (2012). Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: Sobriety checkpoints.

Saltz, R. F., Paschall, M. J., McGaffigan, R. P., & Nygaard, P.M. (2010). Alcohol risk management in college settings: The Safer California Universities randomized trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 39, 491-499.

Shults, R. A., Elder, R. W., Sleet, D. A., Nichols, J. L., Alao, M. O., Carande-Kulis, V. G., … Thompson, R.S. (2001). Reviews of evidence regarding interventions to reduce alcohol-impaired driving. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 21(4, Suppl. 1), 66–88. doi:10.1016/S0749-3797(01)00381-6