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Thread: Do "sobriety checkpoints" make us safer?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Do "sobriety checkpoints" make us safer?

    Do "sobriety checkpoints" make us safer?

    We're told that random sobriety checkpoints used to identify and catch "drunk drivers" make the roads safer -- but there's little, if any, hard data to support this claim.

    What we do have is an attempt to correlate the number of people arrested for driving with at least some alcohol in their bloodstream with a reduction in alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities.

    That's quite a different thing.

    In fact, the practice of herding drivers like cattle through "checkpoints" hasn't put much of a dent in the total number of drunk driving deaths that occur annually in this country.

    Depending on whose numbers you believe, roughly half of the 50,000 or so motor vehicle fatalities reported to the National HighwayTraffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) each year are "alcohol-related" -- that is, attributed in some way to the consumption of alcohol and the involvement of a motor vehicle.

    But "alcohol-related" plays fast and loose with the truth -- a shuck and jive that lumps motor vehicle fatalities that don't necessarily involve a drunk driver with those that do. For example, the death of a drunk pedestrian who wanders into a busy street and gets run over is listed as "alcohol-related" fatality -- even though the driver of the car may have been completely sober. Similarly, if a car runs off the road and it is later determined that a passenger had some alcohol in his system, that death is likewise reported as "alcohol-related" -- even though the passenger's consumption of alcohol had absolutely nothing to do with the accident itself. In this way, the actual number of "drunk driving" deaths can be distorted -- and reported -- as being a much higher percentage of the total than is in fact the case.

    The more relevant fact as regards the usefulness of sobriety checkpoints, however, is that while there is some slight year-to-year fluctuation in motor vehicle fatalities attributed to drunk driving, there has been no major downward trend that coincides with the increased use of roadside sobriety checkpoints -- which have become commonplace around the country, especially during the holiday season.

    But if the checkpoints are effective at catching dangerous drunks -- as advocates claim -- then there should be an obvious statistical downtick in drunk driving deaths that coincides with the expanded use of these checkpoints.

    Problem is, there isn't.

    This suggests that while sobriety checkpoints have been very effective at criminalizing social drinkers -- that is, otherwise law-abiding and responsible people with slight trace amounts of alcohol in their system who would otherwise have gone unnoticed and probably made it home without incident -- they aren't doing so well at nabbing the truly dangerous heavy drinkers who are responsible for the majority of the drunk driving deaths and accidents.

    It's a fact, for example, that the majority of drunk driving deaths involve a person with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of more than .10 percent, a point reached after a bout of pretty heavy drinking -- not the glass or two of wine over dinner that puts a person in peril of a DUI citation as a result of running afoul of ever-lower maximum allowable BAC levels.

    Most states now have BAC thresholds for "drunk driving" set at the .08 BAC level, signifcantly below the .10 BAC level (and higher) at which it's been shown a person is most likely to actually be involved in (or the cause of) a motor vehicle accident.

    The key point is that having had a drink or two is not the same thing as being "drunk" -- at least not to fair-minded people. But advocates of ever-lower BAC thresholds and the aggressive use of sobriety checkpoints do not seem to appreciate the distinction. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), to cite the most notorious example, continues to push for BAC thresholds to be lowered to .06, even .04 -- a level so low that a person could be legally considered "drunk" after having consumed as little as a single glass of beer or wine in the course of an hour.

    But "habitual offenders" with BAC levels of .10 and higher are not only responsible for most of the drunk driving problem, they tend to go out and drive drunk again and again and again. They are not deterred by sobriety checkpoints -- and are often cagey enough to avoid them entirely, because (for example) many hard-core alcoholics drive drunk in the daytime -- and for the most part sobriety checkpoints are set up in the evening hours.

    The best way to catch these deadly habitual and harcore drunk drivers, according to experienced law-enforcement officers, is not by the use of dragnet-style "checkpoints" -- but the old-fashioned way: by patrolling the streets, looking for drivers displaying evidence of serious impairment such as weaving, wandering across the center line or driving too slowly.

    Instead, police resources have been concentrated on static checkpoints -- leaving the roads open to the bad guys while over-punishing people who aren't really the problem.

    It may be politically correct -- but it's demonstrably ineffective.

    While no sensible person thinks it's smart to drink and drive, it's also unreasonable to claim -- as groups such as MADD have -- that any consumption of alcohol (even just a glass of wine with dinner) prior to driving is tantamount to "drunk driving" -- and ought to be the target of law-enforcement.

    That kind of neo-Prohibitionist zealotry is far-removed from the original (and laudatory) goal of groups like MADD -- and should be rejected by all reasonable people.

    END

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Do "sobriety checkpoints" make us safer?

    Since living in Australia (1999) I have been breathtested 41 times!!
    One eveing when in Melbourne VIC, 3 times with in 40 minutes

    They go overboard here. All helps keep the polies in their jobs, as they are seen to be doing something about road toll
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  3. #3
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    Re: Do "sobriety checkpoints" make us safer?

    It's the old saw: anything that can be measured.. speed, BAC, not wearing a seat belt, etc is ripe for the picking.

    There are many angry, upset, violent, wacky, completely unaware drivers out there, but they can measure BAC so that's the bad guy.

    I would never give a dime to MADD. They are just making money by criminalizing a person who has had a drink or two. Just wait, .08 is not enough - it will have to be .06, then .04... I predict!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Do "sobriety checkpoints" make us safer?

    Don't foret SADD and RADD...and other similar organisations
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Do "sobriety checkpoints" make us safer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kwozzie1
    Don't foret SADD and RADD...and other similar organisations
    Indeed; more harpies with a cause... a pox on 'em all!

  6. #6
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    Re: Do "sobriety checkpoints" make us safer?

    Actually, sobriety (and other) checkpoints create traffic jams, waste fuel, and unnecessarily add to the greenhouse gases.

    About once a month, a village next to mine sets up a seat belt check point on a main thoroughfare around 5PM and screws up traffic in both directions turning a five minute ride into something approaching a half hour.

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Do "sobriety checkpoints" make us safer?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdm
    Actually, sobriety (and other) checkpoints create traffic jams, waste fuel, and unnecessarily add to the greenhouse gases.

    About once a month, a village next to mine sets up a seat belt check point on a main thoroughfare around 5PM and screws up traffic in both directions turning a five minute ride into something approaching a half hour.
    Utterly loathsome; makes the Aussi outback seem like the place to be!

  8. #8
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    Re: Do "sobriety checkpoints" make us safer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric

    Utterly loathsome; makes the Aussi outback seem like the place to be!
    From my meager experience, any place in Oz is the place to be.

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