In 2016 road accidents were ranked eighth leading cause of deaths and caused 1.35 million fatalities internationally, and has a mortality rate of 18.2 % per 100,000 inhabitants (García-Echalar and Rau 1). The risk of car accidents is even greater when the driver is intoxicated and driving under the influence (DUI). Global statistics indicate that 21.8 percent of all vehicular accidents relate to alcohol and drunk driving, which results in approximately 306,002 deaths. These high numbers of mortalities from road carnages underscore the need to develop restrictive rules and laws to enforce sober driving. One such approach in the Louisiana state is the enforcement of sobriety check that has received mixed reactions from the public and scholars. The proponents of sobriety checks argue that the perceived risk of being arrested and prosecuted greatly reduces drunk driving. On the contrary, the opponents of sobriety checks aver that it violates their right as outlined in the fourth amendment, “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, paper and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” While both sides of the debate offer important arguments, sobriety checks must be enforced as they help protect the lives of the driver and the potential victims. The state’s interest in reducing drunk driving outweighs the minor infringements on drivers’ rights outlined in the constitution.
To begin with, the enforcement of sobriety checks helps protect the lives of the drivers and potential victims. Considering that public roads are utilized by everyone, having a drunk driver on the loose could have devastating impacts on the other users and the driver. Considering alcohol impairs one’s judgment, operating a vehicle or machine like a vehicle puts the driver’s life at risk and the pedestrians, bystanders, and other motorists at risk of death or injuries. Thus, through the enforcement of sobriety checks, the risk and dangers associated with drunk driving reduced significantly. According to García-Echalar and Rau, enforcement of more stringent drunk driving penalties is likely to reduce accidents associated with drunk driving (14). Sobriety check as one of the laws that can help put drivers on check helps create an environment of the perceived risk of punishment that is likely to reduce the likelihood of drivers engaging in dangerous driving activities when intoxicated.
Additionally, the enforcement of sobriety checks can discourage future check drunk driving through the installation of ignition interlock for first-time offenders with a hefty punishment for repeat offenders. According to the Louisiana state laws, sobriety checks are important in determining the blood alcohol concentration of individuals. When BAC is 2.0 or higher on the checks or during arrest, an ignition interlock will be installed on the first-time offenders. However, for repeat offenders, the punishment might be as heavy as the suspension of the driving license of a driver that often compels individuals to apply for hardship driving licenses to facilitate their movement to work. Besides, to get their license back after being convicted with DWI, they must install an ignition interlock. In this sense, the enforcement of sobriety checks helps law enforcement reduce future risks of drunk driving and deaths related to reckless driving.
Nevertheless, the opponents of the sobriety checks continue to cite the fourth amendment that protects the individuals’ “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, paper, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” According to this view, such checks infringe on the rights and the privacy of the individual, and as such, the constitution must be upheld. While this should be the case, the courts and law enforcement believe that protecting the lives of both the driver and the potential victim of road carnage outweighs the infringement of an individual’s constitutional rights (Morrissey 167). In this respect, the enforcement of sobriety checks is important in protecting the lives of the road users and the bystanders who are most likely unaware of their surroundings and the mental state of the motorists.
In summation, the implementation and enforcement of sobriety checks on public roads are important in reducing the risk of drunk driving-related injuries and deaths. The current body of evidence confirms that the sobriety checks help protect the lives of the public, the motorist, and others users of the same road. Secondly, the checks are likely to reduce traffic offenses related to drunk driving due to what scholars term as the perceived risk of arrest and punishment. In states like Louisiana, first-time offenders are compelled by the courts to install an ignition interlock. On the other hand, repeat offenders are punished heftily to discourage them from partaking in such risky behavior in the future. Lastly, while the right to privacy is enshrined in the constitution of the United States, it can be waivered, especially when one is not only a danger to themselves but also the other members of the public.
García-Echalar, Andrés, and Tomás Rau. “The Effects of Increasing Penalties in Drunk Driving Laws—Evidence from Chile.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 21, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2020, p. 8103.
Morrissey, Colby J. “Anonymous Tips Reporting Drunk Driving: Rejecting a Fourth Amendment Exception for Investigatory Traffic Stops.” New Eng. L. Rev., vol. 45, HeinOnline, 2010, p. 167.