Publicized Sobriety Checkpoints Save Lives

An orange diamond shaped roadsign, with the words 'Sobriety Checkpoint Ahead' in black letters.The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends publicized sobriety checkpoint programs as an effective intervention to reduce alcohol-impaired driving. This recommendation is based on a systematic review of all available studies that was conducted with oversight from the Task Force by scientists and subject matter experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with a wide range of government, academic, policy, and practice-based partners. Both the Task Force recommendation and evidence review are included in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

What are publicized sobriety checkpoint programs?

Publicized sobriety checkpoint programs are a form of high visibility enforcement where law enforcement officers stop vehicles in a systematic manner to assess the driver’s degree of alcohol impairment. Media efforts to publicize the enforcement activity are an integral part of these programs. The program goal is to reduce alcohol-impaired driving by increasing the public’s perceived risk of arrest while also arresting alcohol-impaired drivers identified at checkpoints.

In the United States, selective breath testing is used at sobriety checkpoints, which means police must have suspicion of impairment, based on observation, before a breath test can be requested. In several other countries, police use random breath testing in which all stopped drivers are given breath tests for blood alcohol concentration levels.

Why is this recommendation important?

Studies of publicized sobriety checkpoints conducted in the U.S. found an 8.9% median decrease in the number of fatal crashes thought to involve alcohol. Currently, twelve states do not allow sobriety checkpoints to be conducted: Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver (NHTSA 2012). In 2010, adults reported driving after having too much to drink an estimated 112 million times (Bergen et al., 2011), and nearly one third of all motor vehicle crash deaths involve at least one alcohol-impaired driver (NHTSA 2013).

What are the Task Force and The Community Guide?

  • The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) is an independent, nonfederal, unpaid panel of public health and prevention experts. The Task Force works to improve the health of all Americans by providing evidence-based recommendations about community preventive programs, services, and policies to improve health. Its members represent a broad range of research, practice, and policy expertise in community prevention services, public health, health promotion, and disease prevention.
  • The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide) is a website that is a collection of all the evidence-based findings and recommendations of the Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force).

For More Information


Bergen G, Shults RA, Rudd RA. (October 4, 2011). Vital signs: alcohol-impaired driving among adults United States, 2010. MMWR 2011;60(39):1351-6.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts 2010: Alcohol-Impaired Driving. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA; 2012 [cited Sep 28 2012]. Available at URL: [PDF – 792 kB]

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts 2012: Alcohol-Impaired Driving. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA; 2013 [cited March 19 2014]. Available at URL: [PDF – 567 kB]

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