Texas Sobriety Checkpoints Provide General Deterrence
Sobriety checkpoints have long been recognized as a key component of an effective impaired driving enforcement program. Indeed, the Safety Board first recommended that Texas and other states institute the use of sobriety checkpoints nearly 20 years ago, in 1984.
If drunk driving is to be reduced significantly in the short term, motorists must be convinced that there is a strong likelihood that they will be arrested and penalized if they drive impaired. Many impaired drivers persist in their behavior because they have a perception of low risk of arrest and penalty. And, unfortunately, this perception is based in reality. The odds of being arrested for driving while impaired range from one in 200 to one in 2,000. The national average is only about one in 770. Stated another way, an intoxicated driver can drive from New York to Los Angeles and half way back without being arrested.
State and local programs that focus principally on those relatively few drunk drivers who have been apprehended, as opposed to programs designed to deter the vast majority of offenders who are never caught, are not likely to achieve significant results. Significant short term reductions in alcohol-related deaths and injuries are more likely to be brought about through programs designed to deter drunk drivers still on the road than those which seek to stop an individual, convicted, drunk driver from repeating his or her crime. A comprehensive program is needed that does both – a program that effectively arrests and penalizes all apprehended offenders (and provides treatment for those who need it), but also deters potential offenders because of the increased perceived likelihood of arrest and penalty.