Sobriety Checkpoints


Law enforcement officials use sobriety checkpoints to evaluate drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment and enforce existing driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws accordingly.


To increase perceptions and the actual likelihood of getting caught and punished by the police for driving under the influence

Typical Elements

  • Individuals/organizations with the expertise consult with stakeholders in the judicial system to identify legal requirements, including evidentiary information needed, for successfully prosecuting sobriety checkpoint violators (NHTSA, 2002).
  • Police department has a formal, written plan for conducting sobriety checkpoints (Gabriel et al., 2008).
  • Collaboration with police officers to review the existing plan for comprehensiveness and alignment with existing legal requirements or develop a plan if one does not exist. This plan should describe (NHTSA, 2002):
    • The selection of sobriety checkpoint sites considering location, time of day, officer and public safety (Steward, 2010)
    • Staffing of sobriety checkpoints including officer recruitment (see also Fell, Lacey, & Voas, 2004; Lacey, Ferguson, Kelley-Baker, & Rider, 2006); staff training (NHTSA, 2002).
    • Implementation procedures that increase visibility, are systematic, explain the purpose of the checkpoint, use a mobile breathalyzer, remove the vehicle from the road, establish juvenile holdover programs, and host regular briefings
  • Sobriety checkpoints that are implemented regularly and continuously over time.
  • A communication strategy to raise public awareness about sobriety checkpoints and the consequences of drinking and driving. Strategies can include public service announcements (Beck & Moser, 2004; Clapp et al., 2005) or an active media advocacy campaign (Clapp et al., 2005; Fell et al., 2004).
  • A strategy for monitoring and documenting the implementation of the sobriety checkpoint plan, including any deviations. Program leaders can consider completing a written report for each sobriety checkpoint operation that includes number of cars stopped, number of motorists detained for sobriety testing, number of DWI arrests, and changes in the number of impaired driving arrests over time (Imm et al., 2007).


  • Youth under age 21 who drive
  • Adult drivers


  • For underage drivers: Compared to a campus that did not implement sobriety checkpoints in conjunction with social marketing and media advocacy campaigns, the one that did demonstrated decreased rates of DUI in the past year (Clapp et al., 2005).
  • For adult drivers: Compared to matched communities that did not implement sobriety checkpoints, those that did demonstrated greater reductions in alcohol-involved crashes (Nunn & Newby, 2011) and incidence of drinking and driving (Lacey et al., 2006) among the general population.


A Guide for Enforcing Impaired Driving Laws for Youth

Passive Alcohol Sensors: A Study Focusing on Their Use, Performance, Effectiveness, and Policy Implications for Traffic Enforcement

Preventing Underage Drinking: Using Getting to Outcomes™ with the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework to Achieve Results

Saturation Patrols & Sobriety Checkpoints Guide: A How-to Guide for Planning and Publicizing Impaired Driving Enforcement Efforts

Sobriety Checkpoint Laws 


Motor Vehicle Injury- Alcohol-Impaired Driving: Publicized Sobriety Checkpoint Programs 


Beck, K. H., & Moser, M. L. (2004). Exposure to the sobriety “Checkpoint Strikeforce” campaign in Maryland: Impact on driver perceptions of vulnerability and behavior. Traffic Injury Prevention, 5(2), 101–106. doi:10.1080/15389580490434908

Clapp, J. D., Johnson, M., Voas, R. B., Lange, J. E., Shillington, A., & Russell, C. (2005). Reducing DUI among US college students: results of an environmental trial. Addiction, 100, 327–334.

Fell, J. C., Lacey, J. H., & Voas, R. B. (2004). Sobriety checkpoints: Evidence of effectiveness is strong, but use is limited. Traffic Injury Prevention, 5(3), 220–227. doi:10.1080/15389580490465247

Gabriel, R., Becker, L., Leahy, S. K., Landy, A. L., Metzger, J., Orwin, R., . . . Stein-Seroussi, A. (2008, April 30). Assessing the fidelity of implementation of the Strategic Prevention Framework in SPF SIG-funded communities: User’s guide and fidelity assessment rubrics (version 2).

Imm, P., Chinman, M., Wandersman, A., Rosenbloom, D., Guckenburg, S., & Leis, R. (2007). Preventing underage drinking: Using Getting To Outcomes™ with the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework to achieve results. Retrieved from

Lacey, J. H., Ferguson, S. A., Kelley-Baker, R., & Rider, R. P. (2006). Low-manpower checkpoints: Can they provide effective DUI enforcement in small communities? Traffic Injury Prevention, 7(3), 213–218.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). (2002). Saturation patrols & sobriety checkpoints guide: A how-to guide for planning and publicizing impaired driving enforcement efforts. Retrieved from

Nunn, S., & Newby, W. (2011). The geography of deterrence: Exploring the small area effects of sobriety checkpoints on alcohol-impaired collision rates within a city. Evaluation Review, 35(4), 354–378.

Stewart, K. (2010). A guide for enforcing impaired driving laws for youth. Calverton, MD: Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Retrieved from