Is it time for West Virginia to get rid of DUI checkpoints?

West Virginia is among 38 states where drivers are subjected to sobriety checkpoints, also known as DUI checkpoints. Many West Virginia drivers may have found themselves passing through one over Labor Day weekend.

Despite their widespread use across the United States, checkpoints are a highly controversial law enforcement tool. Critics most commonly argue that checkpoints create a traffic nuisance, cost a lot of money to implement and result in the harassment of responsible drivers. The most important criticism, however, is this: Sobriety checkpoints don’t work very well.

A recent newspaper opinion piece contains some eye-opening statistics about the ineffectiveness of DUI checkpoints. Between October 2010 and September 2011, approximately 130,000 drivers went through checkpoints in West Virginia. In total, these checkpoints resulted in just 189 drunk-driving arrests over that one-year period, or just 3.2 percent of DUI arrests statewide.

Because checkpoints are announced in advance and because they create traffic backups, it is easy for many drivers to find alternative routes and avoid going through a checkpoint. Drivers who have been drinking may take extra care to avoid checkpoints, which again suggests that they are ineffective.

According to the same opinion piece mentioned earlier, sobriety checkpoints can cost between $8,000 and $10,000 each. Yet roving DUI patrols, which can be 10 times more effective, cost as little as $300 each.

West Virginians may not be able to get rid of sobriety checkpoints any time soon, but shouldn’t we at least have the discussion? Doing away with this ineffective law enforcement tool could save considerable, time, taxpayer money and personal freedoms.

Source: The Tampa Tribune, “Sobriety checkpoints won’t work this Labor Day — or any other day,” Sarah Longwell, Aug. 30, 2014

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