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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 have reason to suspect a driver has been drinking before testing; and random breath testing (RBT), where officers randomly select and test drivers for blood alcohol levels. RBT is not used in the United States (CG-Motor vehicle injury). Checkpoints may be publicized through paid or unpaid media coverage, or occur without publicity.

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 they are highly publicized (CG-Motor vehicle injury). Positive effects have been shown for both RBT (IAS-Anderson 2006, CG-Motor vehicle injury) and SBT (CG-Motor vehicle injury). 

The largest reduction in crashes often occurs in the first three to six months of checkpoint implementation. 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 consumption among underage youth (RAND-Imm 2007). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects on underage drinking.


United States

Sobriety checkpoints are conducted in all but 12 states, although frequency and other specifics vary (GHSA-Sobriety checkpoints 2015).


Sobriety checkpoints are prohibited by Wisconsin state statute (GHSA-Sobriety checkpoints 2015).

Citations - Description

CG-Motor vehicle injury - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Motor vehicle injury prevention. Accessed on December 19, 2016

Citations - Evidence

CG-Motor vehicle injury - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Motor vehicle injury prevention. Accessed on December 19, 2016
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 November 17, 2015
IAS-Anderson 2006 - Anderson P, Baumberg B. Alcohol in Europe: A public health perspective. London, UK: Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS); 2006. Accessed on February 17, 2016
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 April 18, 2017

Citations - Implementation

GHSA-Sobriety checkpoints 2015 - Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Sobriety checkpoint laws. March 2015. Accessed on February 5, 2016

Page Last Updated

October 11, 2013

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