Sobriety Checkpoints - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

1/12/05

Sobriety Checkpoints

by Donna McCollum

Texas no longer uses sobriety checkpoints to catch people driving drunk. But now the group 'Mothers Against Drunk Driving ( www.madd.org ) wants to change that.

Drunk driving can end lives. The primary reason why MADD supports sobriety checkpoints. Yet Texas is one of only ten states no longer using the random enforcement.

Department of Public Safety Trooper Greg Sanches says, "It's against the law. It's been ruled by state courts as against the law."

Texas motorists contested the practice, winning civil rights arguments too many times. Also safety concerns developed. New guidelines were put into place,but eventually the whole practice was stopped even though the Supreme Court says they're legal.

DPS now gets drunks off the roads other ways. Sanches points out, "Out of 2000 troopers we make 1/3 of the DWI arrests throughout the state, so statistics show troopers are working."

Drug free educator Shari Ratliff recognizes the agency's success, but supports MADD's effort to establish dialogue on the high visibility enforcement. "At least I would like them to take a look at it and see if they think it's something that possibly could be done."

Ratliff isn't a MADD member, but shares its goal of addressing anything that could combat drunk driving. "It's not that you're trying to trap anybody. It's that your trying to prevent a problem," said Ratliff.

"This is a proven, effective strategy," said MADD President Wendy Hamilton. "It really does have credible scientific backing that proves that it reduces alcohol-related fatalities by 20 percent."

Last year in the United States more than 17-thousand traffic deaths were alcohol-related.

The goals of getting drunks off the roads are the same, but the methods remain a debate for state lawmakers.

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