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045 Implementing optimal configurations of sobriety checkpoints to reduce alcohol-impaired driving
  1. Christopher Morrison,
  2. Ariana Gobaud,
  3. Christina Mehranbod
  1. Columbia University, New York, USA


Statement of Purpose Numerous empirical studies provide evidence that roadside sobriety checkpoints reduce alcohol-impaired driving. However, this intervention is uncommon in the US, partly because checkpoints are resource-intensive for municipal police departments to conduct. Our prior research identifies that police departments could minimize operational costs, maximize public health impacts, and perhaps improve community acceptance by conducting more frequent sobriety checkpoints staffed by fewer officers. This implementation study aimed to test the feasibility of optimizing sobriety checkpoints.

Methods/Approach In late 2020, a municipal police department in a southeastern US city provided details for 4 sobriety checkpoints scheduled for 2021. We halved the total policing resources dedicated to 2 of the 4 scheduled checkpoints (operationalized as officer-hours) and re-allocated these resources to 2 additional checkpoints. Thus, the police department conducted 6 checkpoints during 2021, including 2 regular checkpoints and 4 optimized checkpoints. We conducted intercept surveys of motorists and interviewed officers to measure acceptability, perceived effectiveness, and momentary stress.

Results All 6 checkpoints were conducted according to the reconfigured schedule. Officers reported the optimized checkpoints were no more stressful or difficult to implement compared to the regular checkpoints. A total of 1,051 motorists passed through the 4 checkpoints and 125 (12%) completed the survey. Ninety percent supported having sobriety checkpoints in their community. In logistic regression models, passing through a checkpoint was more stressful for current drinkers than non-drinkers (OR = 7.4, 95%CI: 1.9, 28.8).

Conclusion Conducting additional checkpoints staffed by fewer police officers is a feasible approach to optimize sobriety checkpoints.

Significance Academic recommendations regarding policing operations are unlikely to be adopted if they are not tested in real-world settings. This research contributes to a compelling narrative to encourage police departments to optimize a highly effective public health intervention.

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