A survey performed by a state auditor found that DUI checkpoints in California prevent deadly accidents and typically follow the rules that restrict their use, although there are very few rules to follow, according to an article in the Merced Sun-Star.
The auditor’s report observed that DUI checkpoints in California are not governed by any federal or state DUI laws. In addition, the California Office of Traffic Safety does not have to monitor the activities at its checkpoints, despite funding more than 2,000 such checkpoints each year.
Of course, despite some criticism of the checkpoints’ perceived status as existing outside the law, the report observed that fatalities on California roads dropped by almost 12 percent in the least year, which could be attributed to the increase in DUI checkpoints.
According to the director of the traffic safety office, Chris Murphy, the report “speaks volumes to the work” that he and his staff have been doing, and it proves that the checkpoint program “has been running very efficiently and effectively.”
The traffic safety office has a lot invested in the checkpoints, so it’s natural that its leaders are touting the merits of the checkpoint program.
Sources indicate that the office spent almost $17 million for police overtime work at 2,500 different checkpoints during the 2010 fiscal year. All this work led to roughly 28,000 citations for unlicensed drivers, and 7,000 drunk driving arrests.
Much of the criticism leveled at the checkpoints has related to the thousands of arrests for driving without a license.
After such an arrest, police typically impounded the drivers’ cars, often for up to 30 days. In order to retrieve their cars, these drivers had to pay upwards of $1,500 in fees and towing charges. As a result, cars that were worth less than that sum were often simply abandoned at the impoundment lot.
The majority of drivers who lost their cars for driving without a license were undocumented immigrants, who are not allowed to have official driver’s licenses in California.
Critics of the checkpoints observe that the fees gained from checkpoint arrests are a major cash source for local governments. They also claim that the disparity between drunk driving arrests and other, more minor, offenses at these checkpoints show that combating drunk driving is not the main purpose of the program.
Nevertheless, despite these claims, fatal traffic accidents in California are on the decline, so the state will likely continue its current checkpoint practices for the foreseeable future.