Are Sobriety Checkpoints Effective?

Statistics released by the Baton Rouge Police Department reveal that sobriety checkpoints catch a surprisingly small number of drunk drivers. The vast majority of drivers stopped by officers are allowed to proceed, having done nothing wrong.

According to BRPD press releases, a January 17 checkpoint on North Foster resulted in just one DWI arrest out of the 75 cars stopped. One week later, a roadblock on an Interstate 10 on-ramp found that just 4 drivers out of 211 stopped were intoxicated. That means fewer than 2% of drivers stopped are legally impaired.

Checkpoints are resource a intensive exercise which often require manpower from multiple law enforcement agencies. For instance, an April 17, 2010, checkpoint in Port Allen was manned for 4 hours by 10 officers from the West Baton Rouge Sheriff and State Police. By all accounts, that’s a typical showing.

The BRPD’s own statistics demonstrate that checkpoints are not very effective at ferreting out drunk drivers. Not only that, their cost – in dollars and time – outweighs the benefits of catching a few drunks in the dragnet. A similar number of DWI arrests could probably be realized through traditional street patrols.