Flexible Checkpoints Are A Low-Cost Tactic For Deterring DUIs

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On a Saturday night last month, a sobriety checkpoint in Harrisburg, PA stopped 475 vehicles. But for all their efforts, police in Dauphin County made only two DUI arrests. At that same checkpoint location in 2015, 300 vehicles where stopped and 24 arrests were made.

Sobriety checkpoints have long served as a high-visibility enforcement strategy against drunk and impaired driving, but with so few arrests, is it really worth it?

Deterring DUIs or Wasting Time and Resources?

The debate as to whether or not sobriety checkpoints are an effective strategy against drunk driving isn’t new. But determining if sobriety checkpoints serve their intended purpose often depends on what type of results are expected. According to Dauphin County’s chief detective John Goshert, the goal of the Harrisburg checkpoint was not arrests, but deterrence—which is often a harder result to quantify.

While public expectations around checkpoints often focus on arrests, law enforcement agencies view them as opportunities for deterring and educating the public on the dangers of impaired driving. Police do measure the number of arrests in relation to total stops, but success is typically measured by changes in total alcohol-related motor vehicle incidents, including injuries and deaths. According to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) fact sheet, a review of checkpoint studies found they “reduced alcohol-related fatal, injury, and property damage crashes each by about 20 percent” with another analysis indicating “checkpoints reduced alcohol-related crashes by 17 percent, and all crashes by 10 to 15 percent.”

No matter how success is defined, one thing is clear, checkpoints are resource-intensive, requiring many hours, officers, and a range of agency equipment to operate. But there’s a tactic law enforcement agencies are using to supplement their DUI enforcement, one that broadens the scope of traditional sobriety checkpoints.

Flexible DUI Checkpoints: A Low-Cost Tactic

Flexible checkpoints or “phantom checkpoints” are a strategy that involves staging with enforcement vehicles and signs, but not fully staffing a checkpoint, providing police with an alternative method of DUI enforcement that is less expensive. By creating the appearance of a sobriety checkpoint, the objective is mainly to raise police visibility and DUI awareness within the community.

With flexible checkpoints, officers rarely stop or arrest drivers, but the goal of deterring drunk driving is achieved as drivers observe law enforcement presence and activity. In a study conducted last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations (NHTSA), researchers determined that flexible checkpoints serve as “a versatile, low-cost tool that virtually any size law enforcement agency can adapt to enhance enforcement and increase public awareness of enforcement efforts.”

The primary purpose of checkpoints is clear: to deter drunk and impaired driving, not to increase DUI arrests. As long as law enforcement agencies are able to increase the perceived risk of stops with the potential consequence of being arrested for DUI, sobriety checkpoints will continue to be an effective tool for deterring impaired driving.

State Drunk Driving Laws Search Tool

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4 Activities to Avoid If You Plan to Drink this 4th of July

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From California to Maine, people will soon be gathering in parks and backyards to celebrate Independence Day. For many, the holiday isn’t complete without a few beers, a festive cocktail, or a couple of glasses of wine. And while alcohol and July 4th celebrations may go together like mom and apple pie, there are some activities to avoid if you plan to drink.

Hitting the Highway

The Fourth of July is the third most popular drinking day of the year—and one of the busiest holidays for road trips. This year AAA predicts 39.7 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles by car to get to their July 4th destination.

The combo of more alcohol and more people on the road makes for deadly results. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 780 people died in DUI crashes over the July 4th holiday between 2012 and 2016. And the danger increases as the day goes on—fatal crashes involving drunk drivers are three times higher at night than during the day.

If you plan to celebrate America’s birthday with a red, white, and blue cocktail, leave the driving to a sober friend or make plans to use a ride-sharing service or public transportation.

Handling Fireworks

Whether you prefer sparklers or Washington, D.C.-worthy displays, fireworks on July 4th are a national tradition. But many revelers find themselves on the wrong end of a bottle rocket by the end of the night. Fireworks cause an estimated $32 million in property damage and more than 11,000 trips to the ER each year—with nearly 70% of injures occurring between mid-June and mid-July.

Alcohol slows reactions and impairs good judgment, upping the risk of an accident or injury when handling fireworks. If you are in charge of your family or neighborhood show, wait to toast your work until after the finale.

Too Much Time in the Sun

Picnics, barbeques, time on the lake, and outdoor activities with family and friends are common ways to celebrate July 4th. But combining too much sun with alcohol can see your holiday end early on the couch or in the ER instead of watching fireworks.

Drinking intensifies dehydration from heat and sweating and can create a vicious cycle of trying to quench thirst with another beer or glass of Chardonnay. Impaired judgment can also make you forget to reapply sunscreen, and alcohol’s depressant effect can easily turn that stint of sunbathing into a sunburn-producing nap.

Mild effects of excessive sun exposure include headache and fatigue; severe effects include fainting, confusion, and heat stroke. Your best bet if you’ll be outdoors this Independence Day: limit your alcohol intake and alternate drinks with plenty of water.

Boating and Motorized Water Sports

Holiday drunk driving isn’t just a problem on pavement. The American Boating Association notes that July 4th is one of the busiest days for motorized water recreation and boating under the influence (BUI).

In addition to the typical dangers of mixing alcohol with operating a motor vehicle, the impact of alcohol on a boater can intensify with “boater’s hypnosis” that results from motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, and wind. The result: boat operators can become more impaired more quickly then they might on land.

And unlike their landlubber counterparts, drunk boating passengers can be just as much at risk. An intoxicated passenger is more likely to slip in the boat or fall overboard—leading to serious injury or drowning.

Heading out onto the water? Keep the beer cooler closed if you are at the wheel and drink in moderation if you are along for the ride.

Check out this Summer Drinking & DUIs Resource Center for more tools and resources to safely beat the heat.

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When It Comes To Boating, Alcohol and Water Don’t Mix

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With summertime boating season underway, it’s important to remember that impaired driving isn’t limited to the roadways. Boating under the influence (BUI) is just as dangerous as drunk driving and it’s illegal in all 50 states.

The Dangers of BUI

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading contributing factor in boating deaths, accounting for 15% of all recreational fatalities. In 2016, alcohol played a role in 335 boating injuries and 133 deaths.

Just like drunk driving, alcohol impairs a boater’s judgment, vision, balance, and reaction time. However, these effects can occur more quickly out on the water. A boater operator’s coordination can be slowed by “boater’s hypnosis”—the combo of motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, and wind—which speeds up the impact of alcohol in a person’s system. And excessive drinking can be just as dangerous for passengers. An intoxicated passenger is more likely to fall—either inside the boat or overboard—leading to serious injury or drowning.

Alcohol can also heighten a boater’s inexperience. The average boater only spends 110 hours on the water each year, meaning they may not be as confident operating a boat as they are driving on the road. Add that there are no lanes, lights, or turn signals, and that most boaters aren’t required to obtain special training, and you end up with a dangerous or potentially deadly situation.


This summer, law enforcement agencies in all 50 states are expected to participate in a national campaign to raise BUI awareness. Operation Dry Water (ODW) is a program coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and law enforcement agencies. Its mission is “to reduce the number of alcohol- and drug-related accidents and fatalities through increased recreational boater awareness and by fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol use on the water.”

Over the weekend leading up to the Fourth of July—a time when both boating activity and drinking spike—ODW will conduct a nationwide awareness and enforcement campaign. The goal is to inform and educate boaters on the consequences of boating under the influence and to prevent them from hitting the open water if they have been drinking or using drugs.

Since its launch in 2009, ODW’s annual three-day campaign has resulted in the removal of 3,038 boaters for BUI. During the 2017 campaign, law enforcement confronted 243,853 boaters, resulting in more than 33,000 warnings or citations and more than 500 BUI arrests.

State Drunk Driving Laws Search Tool

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Restricting Alcohol Access Can Save Lives

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Do deaths from alcohol-involved motor vehicle crashes decrease when states enact more restrictive alcohol policies? It’s a question being asked by researchers in a new study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Tougher Alcohol Policies Mean Fewer Deaths

“Association of State Alcohol Policies with Alcohol-Related Motor Vehicle Crash Fatalities Among US Adults” examined how the strictness of state alcohol policies, or “alcohol policy environments,” impact the number of drunk-driving deaths. Ultimately, the researchers found a strong link between the two.

Alcohol policy expert Dr. Timothy Naimi and his team analyzed 15 years of crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To measure the alcohol policy environment, the researchers developed the Alcohol Policy Scale (APS), which lists 29 possible alcohol policies in all 50 states.

Examples of policies incorporated into the APS include strictly enforced minimum drinking age laws, zero-tolerance for underage drinking, fake ID laws, and liability for house parties. Other policies focused on alcohol distribution, such as raising alcohol taxes, Sunday sales laws, limitations on liquor store licensing, restricting sales hours, and open container laws.

The researchers concluded that a “10–percentage point increase in the restrictiveness of the state alcohol policy environment was associated with a 10% reduced odds that a crash fatality was alcohol related.” Meaning, by increasing the strength of their alcohol policies by 10%, states could save nearly 800 lives a year, or “about 15 fewer crash fatalities annually in an averaged-sized state.”

The findings verified the researcher’s hypothesis: stronger regulations for alcohol purchases, consumption, and driving while impaired results in fewer deaths attributed to alcohol-related crashes.

The Toll of Drunk Driving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over one million drivers were arrested for alcohol or drug-related DUIs in 2016, but that’s only 1% of the over 111 million self-reported episodes in which people admit to being intoxicated while driving. On average, drunk driving kills more than 10,000 people each year in the U.S.—nearly 29 people a day or one person every 50 minutes.

Stronger alcohol policies such as minimum drinking age laws, sobriety checkpoints, and the .08% blood-alcohol limit have led to a reduction in the number of total drunk driving deaths in recent years, but more can be done to save lives.

“It’s a drinking, not just driving, problem, and folks don’t tend to make good decisions once impaired,” Dr. Naimi told Reuters. “Our study shows that polices targeting both aspects of the equation are helpful, though we could do a lot better on both,” he added. “Having a smaller pool of impaired people available to drive is a big help in reducing impaired driving.”

24/7 Sobriety Program Resource Center

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NADCP Conference Highlights Individual Experiences of Alcohol Addiction and Abuse

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We spent a week at the National Association for Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) Annual Conference where a common theme emerged about the individualistic nature of alcohol addiction and abuse. Many DUI treatment courts and corrections programs have the same requirements for every alcohol client regardless of their risk and need levels, which can negatively impact their outcomes.

We summarized a few of the workshops that supported the idea that DUI courts and treatment programs find the most success when they develop requirements that support individual alcohol clients based on their needs and risks.

Combating Bias in Alcohol Programs

In their session, “Moving Targets: Critical Considerations for the DWI Court Population,” Shane Wolf of the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC) and Julie Seitz of the Center for Alcohol & Drug Treatment covered ways to overcome preconceived notions about alcohol clients in order to place them in the most appropriate DUI program.

The presenters noted that while alcoholism and alcohol abuse knows no bias against its sufferers, research shows that sometimes parole officers, treatment providers, and evaluators experience an implicit bias against alcohol clients that can negatively affect their recovery. For example, clients that are good candidates for certain programs may not be enrolled because the evaluator does not believe they will succeed.

By treating alcohol clients as individuals through encouraging them to tell their unique story and focusing on the facts of their history, evaluators can combat this unconscious bias and connect clients with the most effective program that best fits their needs. Programs that adequately combine validated assessment and screening tools and realistic expectations based on clients’ risk and need levels will ultimately produce the best outcomes.

Alcohol Programs Should Not Be “One Size Fits All”

“Cut DUI Recidivism for Good: A Multi-Track DUI Court Approach to Repeat Offenders,” presented by Judge Richard Vlavianos of the San Joaquin County DUI Monitoring Court, provided a detailed look at how courts that supervise a wide range of alcohol clients can integrate different alcohol monitoring technologies to best fit the spectrum of offenders.

Judge Vlavianos noted that the most successful DUI court programs assess and account for the different risk and need levels of participants. In fact, programs meant for higher-risk alcohol clients can actually have a negative effect on those with lower risks and needs by influencing them to recidivate or regress in their recovery.

Instead of relying on a “one size fits all” approach, the session examined how DUI courts can experience better results by developing different track systems with monitoring technologies and tactics that more appropriately “fit the crime.” Track systems can also be used to incentivize compliance or provide sanctions if participants are able to move to a different track based on their behavior.

The San Joaquin DUI Monitoring Court (SJDMC) successfully reduced annual DUI arrests by 66% and alcohol-involved collisions by 46% by integrating a track system with alcohol monitoring tailored to their unique offender population.

Breaking the Stigma of Alcoholism

Tara Handron of Caron Treatment Centers offered an interesting look at the individuality of alcoholism and recovery in the session “Drunk with Hope: A One Woman Show,” based on her research on recovering female alcoholics and their varied experiences with AA, 12-Step programs, and online recovery meetings.

Despite being a legal substance, a social stigma exists around alcoholics—oftentimes they are portrayed as “bums” or party animals that can’t seem to turn their life around. Through her dynamic and diverse characters, Tara illustrated that the person you least expect could be an alcoholic, and the story behind each individual’s addiction and recovery differs from person to person.

Understanding that alcohol addiction and abuse affects people very differently can help DUI courts, corrections, and treatment providers create programs that support the individualistic needs of clients and ultimately produce the best recovery outcomes.


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Summer DUIs: Drunk Driving Never Goes Into Vacation Mode

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Whether it’s backyard barbecues, boating on the lake, or catching a baseball game, summertime offers plenty of opportunities for people to socialize and spend more time outside. And for many, enjoying summer activities also means consuming alcohol. As a result, the summer months see a substantial increase in both alcohol-involved crashes and DUIs, especially around holiday weekends.

Designed to raise awareness about summertime activities and drinking, and the potential consequences of mixing the two, our Summer Drinking & DUIs Infographic is full of sobering statistics for the summer months. In addition, visit our Summer Drinking & DUIs Resource Center for resources and tips to help ensure the 2018 vacation season remains enjoyable, relaxing, and most importantly, safe.

Summer Drinking and Drunk Driving Infographic

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When It Comes to Monitoring, Scientists Want to Get Under Your Skin

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Are James Bond-type microchips the next wave of alcohol monitoring technologies? Scientists at the University of California San Diego seem to think so. These engineering researchers are hoping that an injectable microchip that monitors drinking will help treatment programs improve outcomes.

Monitoring Alcohol Consumption: Beneath the Skin

In April, engineers at the UC San Diego announced the development of a miniature biosensor designed to be implanted beneath the skin to monitor alcohol consumption in humans. The injectable chip measures one cubic millimeter and is powered by a wearable device, like a smartwatch. It works when alcohol interacts with an enzyme coating, which then generates a byproduct that can be electrochemically detected. These electrical signals are transmitted wirelessly, indicating the presence of alcohol.

“The ultimate goal of this work is to develop a routine, unobtrusive alcohol and drug monitoring device for patients in substance abuse treatment programs,” said Drew Hall, an electrical engineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and the leader of the project. “A tiny injectable sensor—that can be administered in a clinic without surgery—could make it easier for patients to follow a prescribed course of monitoring for extended periods of time,” Hall said during the technology’s announcement.

Alternatives to Continuous Alcohol Monitoring

For decades, alcohol monitoring technology has been designed primarily for community corrections to ensure offenders convicted of alcohol-related crimes remain sober. However, in recent years, there’s been increasing interest in developing monitoring for treatment and even personal use.

For example, in 2016, the UC San Diego team announced the development of a disposable temporary “tattoo” that is worn on the skin and collects blood-alcohol readings from the wearer’s sweat. The downside to this technology is that it’s single-use and easily removable with just one pull. Other types of monitoring technology, more akin to fitness bands, help wearers track their alcohol consumption via a wrist-worn monitor. While patches and bands are lower-profile and less expensive compared to continuous monitoring technology, they’re more ideal for personal use, such as helping people track their alcohol consumption during a night out with friends.

However, these alcohol-monitoring alternatives are fairly unobtrusive and critics question how many people will agree to have a microchip injected into their bodies.

While the work of the UC San Diego team is compelling, the chip has only been tested in vitro and many stages of testing and possible legal hurdles—likely lasting years—will be required before it can advance to general use. Given a choice between an ankle bracelet or a microchip that is implanted under your skin, which would you choose?

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Dash Cams Provide Frightening View of Drunk Driving

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A growing number of people are using dashboard cameras to prove safe driving habits or to protect themselves during traffic accidents. But these devices are also providing a terrifying, front-seat perspective on the dangers of drunk driving and the poor choices impaired drivers make. For example, this video shows a Georgia woman who stopped in the middle of a freeway after being pulled over by police, endangering herself, the officers, and other motorists.

While there are many bystander and law enforcement clips online that highlight the erratic behaviors of suspected drunk drivers, a recent video released by the Sussex Police in South East England shows first-person footage of an intoxicated school teacher’s perilous 20-minute drive home, which ends with the driver crashing into a parked car.

In the video, the dash cam catches the entire journey of inconsistent speed, erratic steering, and hitting curbs and bushes, all from the driver’s perspective. While nobody was hurt—this time—the Sussex Police released the video in the hopes of deterring others from making the decision to drive while intoxicated.

These videos are surfacing with increasing regularity on sites and social media channels like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Law enforcement agencies believe the videos can help deter people from making the bad decision to drive buzzed or drunk, but some are concerned the videos could inspire copycats.

Watch the video below and tell us what you think.


State Drunk Driving Laws Search Tool

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Work-release inmate arrested on “pot” charge

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Work-release inmate arrested on “pot” charge

Click here to read a story about a work release-eligible inmate in the Fauquier County jail who was arrested for possessing marijuana in order to sell it. The inmate was monitored with a GPS monitoring device.

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