Eichelberger, Angela H.; McCartt, Anne T.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Alcohol-impaired driving (DUI) persists as a substantial problem, yet detailed data on impaired driving enforcement practices are not routinely collected. The present study builds on previous surveys about law enforcement agencies’ use of sobriety checkpoints by surveying state and local law enforcement agencies on a broad range of impaired driving enforcement activities, such as dedicated DUI patrols.Methods:
Telephone interviews were conducted with law enforcement liaisons at 50 state highway safety offices and with officers from a nationally representative sample of municipal, county, and state law enforcement agencies. The response rates among enforcement agencies were 86 percent among county agencies, 93 percent among municipal agencies, and 98 percent among state agencies. Respondents were interviewed about their agency’s impaired driving enforcement activities, including the types of enforcement, frequency of use, and whether enforcement activities were publicized.Results:
Based on the highway safety office survey, 38 states conducted sobriety checkpoints in 2011. Nationally, 58 percent of law enforcement agencies reported that they conducted or helped conduct sobriety checkpoints during 2011-12, including 60 percent of county agencies, 55 percent of municipal agencies, and 77 percent of state agencies. Of the state agencies conducting sobriety checkpoints, 24 percent conducted them at least weekly, and 41 percent conducted them once or twice a month. Of local agencies conducting sobriety checkpoints, less than a quarter conducted them monthly or more frequently. The vast majority (87 percent) of agencies reported conducting dedicated DUI patrols. However, dedicated DUI patrols were less likely to be publicized than checkpoints. Less than a quarter of agencies reported using passive alcohol sensors to improve detection of alcohol-impaired drivers.Conclusions:
Results show that 38 states conducted sobriety checkpoints in 2011, a small increase compared with 37 states in a previous survey in 2000. The survey suggests there are several areas in which impaired driving enforcement could be improved: increasing the frequency of special enforcement, such as sobriety checkpoints and/or dedicated patrols; publicizing these efforts to maximize deterrent effects; and using passive alcohol sensors to improve detection of alcohol-impaired drivers. Despite evidence of effectiveness, many agencies do not conduct frequent, publicized DUI enforcement or use passive alcohol sensors.