Food group against sobriety checkpoints

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A national restaurant group is calling on police to stop those holiday sobriety checkpoints--the American Beverage Institute says the roving patrols are better at stopping drunk drivers. Still, local law enforcement says the checkpoints work and have no plans to stop them.

DWI checkpoints are the norm now among local law enforcement agencies who conduct them regularly throughout the area and say they are very effective.

Still, the ABI of Washington D.C. asks agencies to reconsider holding the checkpoints over Christmas and New Years Eve and instead use roving patrols-- during which they patrol the streets and highways looking for erratic drivers. Spokesman for the ABI Sarah Longwell says the checkpoints are less effective than roving patrols.  "What checkpoints amount to are a PR campaign. They don't actually arrest drunk drivers. What American Taxpayers want, they're not glitzy PR campaigns. We want results. We want drunk drivers being taken off the roads at the most rapid rate possible."

Plus she says they target moderate drinkers instead of hard core alcohol abusers and to some extent cause responsible drinkers to stay home or not drink. "The kind of people who like to have a glass of wine with dinner, a champagne toast at a wedding, a beer at a ball game and then drive home. It is those people who might say to themselves, 'I don't want to deal with a police officer shining a flashlight in my face and having me walk the line at a checkpoint tonight in the freezing cold so I'm not going to have anything to drink. And the fact is, that is unfair to people who are acting completely within the bounds of the law."

However, Calcasieu Sheriff's Enforcement Commander James McGee says the checkpoints are a deterrent. "We've had checkpoints where you have 2000 people come through, 2000 cars. So that may be 3000 people. That effects them. You may have a ten year old that's in the back seat and remembers going through a checkpoint. When they start driving maybe they won't drink and drive because of that."

Troop D State Police Captain Chris Guillory agrees. "It's just simply a tool that we use in combination with other forms of patrol and this year in our area we've had a 17% decrease in fatal crashes involving alcohol."

Both agencies say they do use roving patrols as well. "You make more arrests when you have roving details. That's why we do both, "says McGee. Guillory says, "Throughout the holidays we'll have vigorous patrols looking for impaired drivers and we have one checkpoint scheduled for the end of the month."

So there will be checkpoints and roving patrols in force through the holiday season-- as police do what they can to make it a safe one.

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