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Breath testing checkpoints

Health Factors: Alcohol & Drug Use
Decision Makers: Local Government State Government Federal Government
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 50-99% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Law enforcement officers use breath testing checkpoints, also called sobriety checkpoints, to stop drivers and assess their level of alcohol impairment. There are two types of checkpoints: selective breath testing (SBT), where officers must suspect a driver’s impairment to request a breath test; and random breath testing (RBT), where officers can test all drivers for blood alcohol levels. SBT is used in some US states; RBT is not used in the US. Checkpoints may be publicized through paid or unpaid media coverage, or occur without publicity (CG-Motor vehicle injury).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced impaired driving
Reduced alcohol-related crashes
Reduced fatal and non-fatal injuries
Reduced underage drinking

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that sobriety checkpoints reduce alcohol-impaired driving, alcohol-related crashes, and associated fatal and non-fatal injuries, especially when highly publicized (CG-Motor vehicle injury, Lenk 2016). Positive effects have been shown for both random breath testing (RBT) (IAS-Anderson 2006, CG-Motor vehicle injury) and selective breath testing (SBT) (CG-Motor vehicle injury, Lenk 2016).

States with sobriety checkpoint laws have lower rates of alcohol-impaired driving than states without such laws. States that conduct checks frequently (i.e., at least monthly) have lower rates than states that conduct checks less frequently (Lenk 2016). The largest reduction in crashes often occurs in the first three to six months of checkpoint implementation (Erke 2009). A review of Australian checkpoints suggests that testing all drivers stopped at a checkpoint may increase the checkpoint’s effectiveness (Erke 2009).

Sobriety checkpoints are also a suggested strategy to reduce alcohol consumption among underage youth (RAND-Imm 2007). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects on underage drinking.


United States

As of 2015, 38 states and Washington DC permit law enforcement officers to conduct publicized random breath testing checkpoints by law; frequency and other specifics vary. Twelve states prohibit or do not authorize checkpoints (IIHS-Sobriety checkpoints).


Sobriety checkpoints are prohibited by Wisconsin state statute (IIHS-Sobriety checkpoints).

Citations - Description

CG-Motor vehicle injury - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Motor vehicle injury prevention. Accessed on September 24, 2018

Citations - Evidence

CG-Motor vehicle injury - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Motor vehicle injury prevention. Accessed on September 24, 2018
Erke 2009* - Erke A, Goldenbeld C, Vaa T. The effects of drink-driving checkpoints on crashes - A meta-analysis. Accident Analysis & Prevention. 2009;41(5):914-23. Accessed on June 23, 2017
IAS-Anderson 2006 - Anderson P, Baumberg B. Alcohol in Europe: A public health perspective. London, UK: Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS); 2006. Accessed on June 23, 2017
Lenk 2016* - Lenk KM, Nelson TF, Toomey TL, et al. Sobriety checkpoint and open container laws in the United States: Associations with drinking-driving. Traffic Injury Prevention. 2016;17(8):782-787. Accessed on June 29, 2017
RAND-Imm 2007 - Imm P, Chinman M, Wandersman A, et al. Preventing underage drinking: Using Getting To Outcomes™ with the SAMHSA strategic prevention framework to achieve results. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2007: Technical Report 403. Accessed on June 23, 2017

Citations - Implementation

IIHS-Sobriety checkpoints - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). State court decisions on the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints. Accessed on June 29, 2017

Page Last Updated

June 28, 2017

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