Drunk driving is the leading cause of death on our nation’s roads. While there are laws aimed at keeping intoxicated drivers off the roads and from causing damage and fatalities, not everyone abides by the law. One way to catch drunk drivers is by implementing checkpoints. Specifically, DUI checkpoints also called sobriety or DWI, OWI, or OUI checkpoints screen drivers to ensure that they are not driving at alcohol levels that are above the legal limit and thus considered as being impaired.
What is a DUI checkpoint?
DUI checkpoints are locations where law enforcement officials are stationed to check drivers for signs of intoxication and impairment. The point of these checkpoints isn’t to arrest people; the goal is to deter people from driving after they’ve been drinking. Each state has its own laws regulating DUI checkpoints, and several states do not allow them at all. Currently, 37 states and the District of Colombia conduct sobriety checkpoints, and the other 13 either do not allow them based on their interpretation of state or federal law, or they remain silent on the issue.
For example, Texas prohibits DUI checkpoints based on its interpretation of the U.S. Constitution; Missouri prohibits funds from being spent on checkpoint programs; and checkpoints are not permitted in Iowa because of a statue authorizing checkpoint controls doesn’t allow sobriety checkpoints. However, Florida allows law enforcement to hold 15 to 20 checkpoints per month; Utah holds checkpoints every other month; and Arizona allows checkpoints at least once per month. It’s important to understand your state’s laws about DWI checkpoints.
What to expect during DUI checkpoint
Because each state has different checkpoint regulations, the number of cars stopped during a checkpoint varies. However, law enforcement will stop cars at a specified or random interval. If an officer stops you, it’s in your best interest to cooperate with their requests. You’ll be asked to roll down your window and provide your driver’s license, car registration and proof of insurance. While the officer checks your documents, they will also look for signs of intoxication, including:
- Slurred speech
- Smell of alcohol
- Flushed face
- Bloodshot eyes
- Lack of coordination
If you show any signs of intoxication, the officer can conduct a field sobriety test that includes the following evaluations:
- Standing on one leg: Officers will ask you to stand on one leg for about 30 seconds. During this time, they will check to see if you sway while balancing and if you need to use your arms or put your foot down to help you balance.
- Horizonal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test: HGN is the natural involuntary jerking of the eyes that is exaggerated when you’ve been drinking alcohol. During this test, officers will examine if you’re able to track a moving object smoothly, if your eyes jerk when you move them to the side as far as possible and if your eyes begin to jerk before they’ve moved through a 45-degree angle.
- Walk and turn test: The officer will ask you to walk heel to toe in a straight line, turn on one foot and then walk that straight line back to where you started. This test examines your ability to complete a task and your balance.
Field sobriety tests may include other requests: reciting the alphabet, closing your eyes and touching your nose with your finger, standing with your feet together while tipping your head backwards, counting backwards and more.
Implied consent laws
If you perform a roadside sobriety test, you will not receive a pass or fail. The officer uses these evaluations to determine probable cause for a DUI arrest. If you are unable to perform the tests or have symptoms of intoxication, you may be asked to submit to chemical testing — blood, breath or urine testing. Implied consent laws allow officers to conduct chemical testing. If you refuse to submit to chemical testing, you will be in violation of implied consent laws and subject to penalties even if you’re not ultimately convicted of a DUI.
Effectiveness of DUI checkpoints
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sobriety checkpoints are effective in reducing alcohol-related fatal crashes, injuries and property damage each by 20 percent. They have also proven to be effective in decreasing impairment rates significantly in downtown areas and decreasing alcohol-related crashes in post-checkpoint periods by 19 percent.
In addition to reducing drunk driving, sobriety checkpoints may be used to check for outstanding warrants, a valid driver’s license, seat belt use, stolen vehicles and other traffic or criminal violations. These checkpoints are commonly used during peak times for high traffic violations and high numbers of travelers in order to reduce the chances of injuries, fatalities and other damages. Seasonally, such checkpoints are utilized during the winter holidays including Thanksgiving, the night before Thanksgiving called "Blackout Wednesday," Christmas, New Year's Eve, and surrounding summer events such as Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day.
If you do get arrested and convicted of drunk driving, Intoxalock is here to help. As part of your penalties, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device. Customers repeatedly choose Intoxalock as their provider of choice for our easy-to-use device, our 24/7 customer support and our network of more than 3,000 installation centers. For more information about an Intoxalock ignition interlock device, call our state specialists at (833) 623-0200.
Other articles you may be interested in:
How much can I drink and still drive?
How to spot a drunk driver
Drunk driving charges on a boat, ATV, or snowmobile