Wisconsin may soon be considering adding random checkpoints for sobriety along its highways and streets as a means of fixing the drunk driving problem in our state. I listened today to a fellow named Jeff Hanson on WTMJ news radio out of Milwaukee extol the virtues of such a plan.
One fact he kept repeating was that Wisconsin was one of about ten states who do not currently use such checkpoints in the fight against drunk drivers. About forty states, he said, employ such checkpoints, and in his words, "It works".
It is against the law in the state of Wisconsin for a police officer to pull over any driver without reasonable cause which he can articulate in report. That used to be against the law in every state. In the case of a drunk driver, no police officer can pull over a vehicle merely because that vehicle is the only vehicle on the road at a very late hour; that alone is not sufficient cause. But if the officer can articulate that the driver is speeding, or swerving across the center line, he then has enough cause to pull the vehicle over. Under current Wisconsin law, random check points are illegal.
On his talk show, Jeff Hanson seemed to be very much for this system of random check points, citing other state's success time and again. Many of his callers agreed with him, especially when Jeff stated that thses types of check points would only be utilized after bar closes (2:30 am in Wisconsin). I got the feeling that many of the callers who agreed with him wouldn't feel the same way if there was the chance of a random check point squaring up on them after happy hour (5:00 -6:00 pm). After all, that type of checkpoint system might produce some very interesting results for many people between the ages of thirty and fifty-five, including Mr. Hanson. But it seems these adults have no problem with subjecting the youth of our state to a checkpoint system that likely will never affect them.
I am not against such a checkpoint system. Neither am I for it. In fact, I think such a system could lead to further infringes upon a person's privacy, but since the system is still just in the discussion stage, there's no reason to raise a red flag.
What bothers me most about such "systems" isn't that they are good or bad. It's that they are worthless.
If we take out the rhetoric "it works", and change the vocabulary to what should be said, such as "it produces more arrests than not doing it", then maybe one might be able to make a case that such a system "works". But the goal shouldn't be more arrests. The goal, if we are going to shoot for something that "works", should be no more drunk driving...period.
A check point system will not deter drunk drivers. Such a system only reacts to a problem in an untimely manner. It doesn't solve anything, and that's why I am a little bothered by the rhetoric "it works".
Law enforcement's job is too protect citizens. Meeting a drunk at a checkpoint when he has already driven several or many miles is too late. It's also completely hit or miss, leaving many other drunk drivers free to wreak havoc or barely make it home. The moment an intoxicated person starts his car, it's already too late. At best, law enforcement can only react, and everyone knows that wars are lost when the initiative belongs to the other side. Reacting isn't the answer.
What ever happened to devices that wouldn't allow any driver to start his or her car if they were intoxicated? The type of device I am thinking of is a small computer that measures blood alcohol content, and if a certain level is reached, renders the ignition system of the vehicle unusable. Such a system would certainly eliminate almost ALL drunk driving incidents, leaving the police free to protect us in other ways.
Does anyone know more about the ways in which we might eliminate drunk driving? Obviously, eliminating alcohol would be one way, but let's face it; it won't happen again in this country, and for my part, I am not certain we would ever need to.
Is there a way to introduce such a computer into every vehicle at a cost that is neglible? Wouldn't it make more sense to eliminate the opportunity rather than simply trying to react to an already large problem by invading everyone's privacy?
What do you think?