In discussing DUI checkpoints, Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, told The New York Times: "The original concept was it could deter someone from driving drunk because there might have been a D.U.I. checkpoint on the way home and one didn't know for sure,” she said. “Today, the way the program is used, it defeats the purpose of deterring illegal behavior." Geller was presumably referring to the mandatory warnings announcing a planned DUI checkpoint, and how those announcements are being used.
In the interest of answering the question, "Do checkpoints deter DUIs?" the CDC "convened scientists to review 23 studies that looked at the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints, the panel concluded that the checkpoints typically reduced alcohol-related crashes by about 20 percent." This was in 2002, before the introduction of certain smart-phone apps.
Smart Phone Apps and DUI Checkpoints
In 2011, a handful of apps sparked controversy over the service they offered: alerting drivers as to the location of DUI checkpoints. As a matter of course, police departments have to publish the location of a checkpoint some time prior to conducting it, this way it is considered publicly accessible knowledge and participation in the checkpoint is seen as having been implicitly consented to. These apps simply indexed the publicly available information for drivers who were given the cross streets of a checkpoint as soon as the information became available. When apps like this hit the marketplace, it probed a discussion on the ethics of alerting drivers to DUI checkpoints. Even warning friends on social media has been criticized as a questionable way to enable drunk driving.
Does warning others about DUI checkpoints, informally or in an app, effectively undermine their purpose? It appears that the landscape of 'drunk driving-enabling' apps has changed since apps like Buzzed and PhantomAlert were spotlighted in a 2011 New York Times article. Today, such apps exist but many are outdated, not having been updated in years and sometimes difficult to locate on the app store, potentially as the result of pressure from advocacy groups to remove them/create a policy to prohibit them.
Popular traffic app Waze may inadvertently accomplish something similar to such apps, but without making any policy breaches. By compiling the suggestions of every driver who uses it, the app alerts the driver when there are "Police reported ahead!" alerts. The alert comes in advance, with just enough time to slow one's speed, but potentially not enough time to navigate around a checkpoint, if that is the police presence to which the app is immediately referring.
Forsyth County DUI Attorney
With such apps now coexisting peacefully with anti-DUI advocacy groups, managing to help drivers avoid tickets while not wholly infringing on the goal of DUI checkpoints, the question remains: do checkpoints actually succeed in deterring the offense? Or do they just saddle more drivers with tickets?
The immediate deterrent effect may be minimal or hard to determine because it depends on how many people are aware there is a checkpoint (presumably discouraging them to drink and drive), and whether or not they are aware of the location. Without concrete answers to these questions, at least one fact remains: DUI charges are hard to foretell, and not everyone is thinking about the threat of a DUI when they get behind the wheel. Many people charged are those persons who did not think they needed to meticulously track the location to DUI checkpoint, thus, those people who cannot be deterred from a crime because they never foresaw themselves committing it.