Washington State Lawmakers Try for Sobriety Checkpoints

It had been previously reported that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) had given Washington State three out of five stars on drunk driving prevention. One of the suggestions that had been made by MADD was the institution of sobriety checkpoints (roadblocks where every vehicle is stopped and the driver is checked for sobriety.) In the 1980’s, Washington legislature attempted to pass a bill that would allow these checkpoints to be created, but it was deemed unconstitutional. King5.com now reports that lawmakers along with representatives from MADD are redoubling their efforts to institute the safety measure.

There are obvious benefits to a checkpoint system. It would reduce amount of drunken driving accidents on the road, and as Washington’s DUI-related death rate is 6% higher than the rest of the country, it’s apparent that something could be done to reduce the statistic. Not only that, but it would improve driver safety in other ways. When a vehicle was stopped, officers could check to make sure that drivers are licensed and insured and that things like head and brake lights are all working properly.  Not to mention that checkpoints are a relatively cheap method of detection that could prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel in the first place. It would keep the state from having to spend potentially thousands of dollars on expensive in-car breathalyzers or incarceration.

The arguments against the bill are similarly compelling, however. Privacy is an important constitutional right, and to search every vehicle that comes through a particular section of road could be construed as an invasion of privacy. Many lawmakers and citizens are coming out against the idea of checkpoints, saying that not only does it violate constitutional rights, but that the state is asking for a lawsuit by searching people’s vehicles without cause. Those individuals who are coming out in support of this bill are those who are closest to the tragedies that can occur because of drunken driving: representatives from MADD and the National Highway Traffic Association.

It’s not difficult to see how a car accident can change the life of an individual or family forever. It’s tragic that so many lives are ruined by the bad decisions of a few. Laws can (and maybe should) change in order to prevent this sort of incident, but at the end of the day the responsibility lies with the individual driver. If you have been drinking, don’t get behind the wheel. It is that simple. You never know whose life you might be saving by just calling a cab. You can’t control the other drivers on the road, but you can control your own actions and drive as safely as possible, not just for yourself but for the potential innocent victims that might be harmed by reckless behavior.

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