What Are Sobriety Checkpoints?

During the December holidays, you see houses decorated with strings of flashing lights—but if you’re caught driving under the influence, then flashing lights will be in your rear-view mirror. To stop impaired driving, police set up roadblocks on streets. Those who are found to be intoxicated are charged with a DUI, or driving under influence. Sobriety checkpoints are intended to deter the public from driving after drinking or using drugs. 

These checkpoints are indicated by flashing signs. Police officers might stop every passing vehicle, or randomly pull over every 5th or 10th car. Limited resources and a lack of funding make it difficult for police to create checkpoints regularly. These stops are set up during times when impaired people are most likely to drive, like late at night or during a holiday weekend like Easter. Across Canada, these stops are referred to by different names: in Manitoba, it’s called a Check Stop; in Ontario, it is called Reduce Impair Driving Everywhere (RIDE); and in British Columbia, it is known as Drinking Driving Counterattack.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests:

During a sobriety checkpoint, the police will test the driver using a breathalyzer. They may also test the other passengers in the car. Along with a breath test, the officer will check for other signs of impairment including incoordination, slurred speech, the scent of alcohol, flushed cheeks, and bloodshot eyes. If they suspect that you are intoxicated, they will get you to perform a Field Sobriety Test, used to measure the driver’s ability to focus and balance. A few tests that you may be subject to include:

Gaze Test:

Gaze test: Referred to as nystagmus, alcohol causes eye movements to become jerky and irregular. To test the gaze of the driver, the officer will ask them to follow their fingers from side-to-side while a flashlight illuminates their eyes.

Balance Test:

Balance test: Since alcohol impairs coordination, this test gets the driver to stand with one foot off the ground. The officer looks for unsteady balance and hopping or swaying. Police may also ask the driver to walk in a straight line from heel to toe, turn around, and walk back. 

Concentration Test:

Concentration test: These tests involve focusing so police can test the cognitive abilities of the driver. They involve tasks like counting or saying the alphabet. 

How effective are sobriety checkpoints? A systematic review by the CDC found that sobriety checkpoints reduced overall crashes and damages by 20%. One statistic that’s more difficult to measure is how public awareness of these checkpoints influences drivers. They may be less likely to drive while impaired when they know that they could be pulled over by an officer. Considering that the ultimate goal of these checkpoints is to stop drinking/drugging and driving (not necessarily to make arrests), they have proven to be effective because of the public’s awareness.

If you’ve ever been pulled over when you’re driving, then you’re familiar with the pit of fear that forms in your stomach. When you are charged at a sobriety checkpoint, you’ll need a Winnipeg DUI lawyer. This type of charge can have serious consequences, including fines and the withdrawal of your license. At Brodsky Amy & Gould, we will review your case and create a reasonable defence for you; contact us today and we’ll look at your best options.