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Practice Profile

Sobriety Checkpoints

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Promising - One Meta-Analysis Drugs & Substance Abuse - Car Crashes

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Sobriety checkpoints are police operations that aim to reduce the number of alcohol-related car crashes by preventing people from driving under the influence of alcohol and other substances. Driving under the influence (DUI) is prevented by increasing the perceived and actual risk of detection and apprehension by the police.
 
Practice Components
Sobriety checkpoints (also called DUI checkpoints) typically involve a number of police vehicles stationed at the side of the road, with police officers pulling vehicles over and testing drivers for illegal levels of substance use (most commonly alcohol). These interventions occur in public settings and may also include a publicity component, which would advertise when checkpoint enforcement will be in effect.
 
Jurisdictions in the United States may implement these interventions in different ways; for example, the criteria for stopping and testing drivers may differ. Some sobriety checkpoint interventions may include mandatory testing of all drivers, others may test only drivers suspected of being intoxicated, and still others may conduct random testing.

Sobriety check points may also differ in terms of intensity of enforcement and the penalties for drivers found to be driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances. The testing methods or procedures may also vary by jurisdiction, but all involve obtaining a measure of the driver’s blood alcohol concentration. Some interventions may be a permanent fixture of a jurisdiction’s policing of DUI laws, whereas others may be part of an occasional or seasonal campaign or part of a wide enforcement “blitz.”
 
It is important to note that the practice of sobriety checkpoints requires pre-existing legislation that allows for drivers to be pulled over without suspicion. The implementation of sobriety checkpoints, while constitutional in the United States, varies throughout the country due to state laws and safeguards related to discrimination and unreasonable search and seizure (Erke, Goldenbeld, and Vaa 2009; Fell et al. 2005).
 
Practice Theory
The practice of sobriety checkpoints is based on two perspectives: 1) enforcement, and 2) deterrence. The first is concerned with apprehending offenders who drive under the influence; the second focuses on deterring would-be DUI offenders from driving. Having sobriety checkpoints in place assumes that offenders driving while under the influence of alcohol or other substance are being apprehended and that would-be offenders believe that they are at greater risk of apprehension, thus leading to a reduction in both the number of DUI drivers on the roads and the number of car crashes in a jurisdiction.

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Promising - One Meta-Analysis Drugs & Substance Abuse - Car Crashes
Erke, Goldenbeld, and Vaa (2009) found that sobriety checkpoints have a significant effect on reducing the number of car crashes. Aggregating the results of 58 effect sizes from studies that included comparison groups, the authors found an overall reduction of 13 percent in the number of crashes in locations that implemented sobriety checkpoints, compared with control locations.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11980 - 2005400

Meta-Analysis 1
Erke, Goldenbeld, and Vaa (2009) reviewed studies that looked at the effects of sobriety checkpoints on car crashes. To be eligible for inclusion, studies had to examine the effects of sobriety checkpoint interventions on reducing the number of crashes, and provide an estimate of the effect on crash numbers and a statistical weight (or the information for them to be computed). Studies were included if they were published from 1980 onward. Electronic bibliographic databases and bibliographies of identified sobriety checkpoint studies were searched. Both published and unpublished reports were included in the search, which was not limited to the English language and was international in scope. Not all studies had to have a reasonably comparable control area; however, a moderator analysis was conducted, which examined the effect of the sobriety checkpoints on crashes, by looking at studies with comparison groups.  

The search yielded 40 evaluations that were included in the meta-analysis, from which 166 effect sizes could be computed. Of those 40 studies, 24 included comparison groups. Nineteen studies took place in Australia, 10 studies took place in the United States, four in New Zealand, two in Sweden, two in Canada, and one study each from France, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. 
 
The estimated effects of sobriety checkpoints on crashes from the individual studies were calculated as odds ratios, and the summary effects were calculated by the log-odds method of meta-analysis. Random effects models were used to estimate the reduction in the number of crashes with, mean effect interpreted as a percentage reduction in the number of crashes.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Erke, Alena, Charles Goldenbeld, and Truls Vaa. 2009. “The Effects of Drink-Driving Checkpoints on Crashes–A Meta-Analysis.” Accident Analysis & Prevention 41:914–23.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Fell, J.C., E.A. Langston, and A.S. Tippetts. 2005. “Evaluation of Four State Impaired Driving Enforcement Demonstration Programs: Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Louisiana.” Annual Proceedings/Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine 49: 311–26.
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Related Programs

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated programs that are related to this practice:

Checkpoint Tennessee Effective - One study
A year-long statewide sobriety checkpoint program in Tennessee intended to combat impaired driving and reduce alcohol-related car crashes. The program is rated Effective. Researchers observed a 20.4 percent reduction over the projected number of drunk-driving fatal crashes that would have occurred with no intervention. There was a statistically significant reduction in nighttime single-vehicle injury crashes after the start of the program, positive public opinion and awareness of the program.

Community Trials Intervention to Reduce High-Risk Drinking (RHRD) Promising - One study
A multicomponent program for all ages that aims to reduce underage drinking, binge drinking, and drinking and driving by using environmental interventions and community mobilization. The program is rated Promising. The program evidence is mixed with one study finding differences between the intervention and comparison on some measures. However, another study found few statistically significant differences in their targeted outcome evaluation of alcohol-related injuries and police incidents.
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Practice Snapshot

Gender: Both

Targeted Population: Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders

Settings: Other Community Setting

Practice Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Community Awareness/Mobilization, General deterrence, Situational Crime Prevention

Unit of Analysis: Places

Researcher:
Alena Høye
Institute of Transport Economics
Gaustadalléen 2
Oslo 0349
Phone: +47.4889 8074
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