The Missouri Highway Patrol will conduct a sobriety checkpoint and DWI saturation enforcement operations sometime during the month of July, according to a recent news release. The sobriety checkpoint will be in Butler County, and the DWI saturation enforcement operations will be in Butler, Cape Girardeau, Scott, Stoddard, Dunklin, Pemiscot and New Madrid counties.
This important highway safety operation will be conducted by the MSHP in cooperation with other local law enforcement agencies. The proposed checkpoint will be a static operation on a specific highway: its purpose is to check every driver who passes by to ensure they are sober. The DWI saturation is "a mobile operation in which troopers saturate a specific area in an effort to arrest intoxicated drivers," the news release says.
In addition, Troop E officers will participate in the 20-Mile Trooper project on Tuesday, July 3 and Sunday, July 8: troopers will be posted every 20 miles on Interstates 55 and 57, and on a few selected secondary roads. This project aims to "place a trooper in close proximity of motorists who may need assistance and to aggressively enforce all traffic violations which may contribute to unsafe traveling conditions." In particular, officers will be on the lookout for drunk drivers, since Troop E reported a 9% increase in car accident fatalities during the 2011 July 4th holiday travel period.
The effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints in reducing alcohol-related car crashes
According to a review from the CDC, fewer alcohol-related crashes occur when sobriety checkpoints are implemented. CDC scientists and other experts reviewed the results of various scientifically sound studies from around the globe, and each study came to the same basic result: sobriety checkpoints consistently reduced alcohol-related car crashes, by an average of 20%.
Interestingly, the results were similar regardless of where in the world the study took place, or how the checkpoints were conducted. Whether the checkpoint was done as a "short term blitz" like the upcoming Cape Girardeau effort, or conducted in the same place continuously over several years' time, researchers found significant reductions in auto accidents and their resulting injuries and fatalities. These results suggest that the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints does not diminish over time, even though residents are aware the check point is there.
The MSHP uses selective breath testing (SBT) checkpoints, which are the only type used in the United States. At these checkpoints, police can stop everyone, but they must have a reason to suspect that drivers have been drinking before testing their blood alcohol levels.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that sobriety checkpoints are constitutional, some states prohibit them based on their own statutes. Fortunately, Missouri allows sobriety checkpoints. We feel the inconvenience of being stopped is far outweighed by the benefit of removing drunk drivers from our highways, thereby saving lives. Because they are so effective in reducing alcohol-related auto accidents, sobriety checkpoints actually result in substantial savings to communities.
The Missouri Highway Patrol urges drivers to report any vehicle they observe operating in a careless or suspicious manner. Contact the Highway Patrol toll-free at 1-800-525-5555, or dial *55 on your cellular phone.
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