Do DUI Checkpoints Prevent Auto Accidents in Georgia?
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the effectiveness of DUI checkpoints with widely divergent opinion depending on who is asked. The alcohol beverage industry predictably contends that DUI checkpoints are ineffective and costly.
The beverage industry takes the position that DUI checkpoints target moderate drinkers instead of the root cause of today’s drunk driving problem – hard core alcohol abusers. Organizations like MADD and law enforcement agencies are at the other extreme promoting DUI checkpoints as an effective deterrent to moderate consumers of alcohol, as well as habitual drunk drivers. At Montlick and Associates, we have been representing people injured in drunk driving auto accidents throughout Georgia for over 36 years. The efficacy of sobriety checkpoints is important because driving under the influence of alcohol still plays a role in almost 11,000 car crash fatalities annually.
DUI checkpoints are just one method of DUI enforcement. Other common methods of combating drunk driving auto accidents in Georgia include police patrols, mobile awareness patrols which create the appearance of a sobriety checkpoint, and programs that place police officers close to liquor stores to monitor who is buying what and for whom. According to the beverage industry, one million vehicles passed through drunk driving checkpoints throughout the United States in 2008, but only one-third of 1 percent of those drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. During that same time period, 220,000 drivers were stopped at DUI checkpoints in Georgia, and only a single driver was charged with DUI. An additional 2.5 % of drivers stopped at Georgia checkpoints received a citation for other types of driving offenses.
The beverage industry position is that sobriety checkpoints involve an enormous expenditure of dollars and law enforcement resources but yield virtually no DUI arrests. The problem with the beverage industry's position is that it focuses only on DUI arrests. The purpose of DUI checkpoints is not to arrest drunk drivers per se but to discourage drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel of their vehicle at all. The lack of drunk driving DUI arrests at DUI checkpoints may mean that the mere threat of being caught in a DUI checkpoint, particularly during times when drunk driving and checkpoints are likely, is effectively deterring drunk driving.
A driver who might otherwise drive home following a Fourth of July party or other common holiday where DUI checkpoints are common might choose to make alternate arrangements. The theory is that the mere threat of a DUI checkpoint is enough to deter potential drunk drivers. DUI checkpoints are promoted online, in newspapers and on television news broadcasts prior to and during periods with large numbers of drunk drivers. It is hard to determine the deterrent impact of people seeing reports of widespread sobriety checkpoints on local news reports.
Another problem with the beverage industry’s argument is based on the deceptive nature of statistics. One-third of 1 percent sounds trivial, but tens of millions of people pass through sobriety checkpoints in the U.S. annually. With so many people being stopped at sobriety checkpoints even a relatively modest percentage of drivers arrested for drunk driving may mean tens of thousands of drunk drivers being removed from the roads in absolute terms. For example, these statistics would mean that ten million stopped vehicles yield over 33,000 drunk driving arrests.
A final point that is rarely addressed when considering the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints is their ability to remove other unsafe drivers from the road. This feature associated with DUI checkpoints is seldom discussed because it would be a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizures to use checkpoints to arrest unlicensed drivers or those operating a vehicle on a revoked or suspended license.
However, a substantial number of drivers who are stopped at sobriety checkpoints have no license, a suspended license or a revoked license. It is reasonable to assume that drivers without a valid driver’s license are responsible for a significant number of auto accidents. One study in California found that unlicensed drivers accounted for 45% of all hit and run accidents. Sobriety checkpoints often result in the arrest of drivers with licenses that are revoked for being a habitual traffic offender, repeat drunk driver or an uninsured driver.
While the economics of sobriety checkpoints are open to debate, there can be little doubt that fewer people are killed in drunk driving accidents because of the use of sobriety checkpoints. If you have been seriously injured by a drunk driver, or a loved one has been lost in a drunk driving accident in Georgia, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. The experienced, compassionate , Georgia drunk driving accident attorneys at Montlick & Associates have been representing the best interests of Georgia DUI accident victims for over a quarter of a century.
Montlick and Associates is available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.