There Are Better Ways To Enforce OVI Law
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently concluded its annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” OVI campaign, a 20-day enforcement effort running through Labor Day. The national crackdown aims to prevent the incidence of impaired driver related highway fatalities over the extended Labor Day weekend.
In Ohio, the statewide “Drive Sober” campaign means local law enforcement will conduct grant-funded high-visibility OVI checkpoints in an effort to catch any drivers who’ve had too many beers at a Labor Day barbecue. These well-intentioned enforcement efforts, however, are misguided, ineffective and violative of American values.
Dismal arrest rates are common across Ohio and the country, with OVI checkpoint operations frequently failing to produce a single drunken driving arrest. Recent checkpoints conducted in Ohio (Aug. 14) and Florida (Jul. 31) both caught no impaired drivers, despite hundreds of cars passing through the roadblocks and hundreds of not-so-pleasant police encounters. Checkpoint advocates often point to these abysmal results as evidence the enforcement method works. According to this logic, low drunken driving arrest rates (or no arrests at all) are proof that checkpoints effectively deter impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel.
Aggressive saturation patrols are more likely than passive checkpoint operations to catch these dangerous offenders. The targeted approach of searching for impaired drivers also protects the public from other types of unsafe motorists, such as those who are drowsy, distracted or driving too fast. Using police in this manner also requires probable cause to effect a stop, thus being more in keeping with the tradition of policing and the values enumerated in the Constitution.
Saturation patrols are more cost-effective as well. A single sobriety checkpoint can cost up to $10,000, compared to just $300 for the more effective roving patrol. According to the American Automobile Association: “Many police departments favor [saturation patrols] over sobriety checkpoints for their effectiveness, reduced staffing, and the comparative ease of operating saturation patrols.”
So, instead of chasing federal grant money; instead of causing the public to question police priorities, instead of using high-profile media; instead of de-valuing the Constitution; and, instead of making ZERO arrests, how about we try what we know works. America can do better.