Over the Limit, Under Arrest

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Law enforcement agencies across the state of Arkansas and the country are in the final stages of "Over the Limit, Under Arrest." The campaign is aimed at preventing people from drinking and driving during the holidays to save lives. Tonight is the final night of the program.

"The main purpose of the checkpoints is deterrence. What we would like to see is no one drink and drive. We want to remind everyone that if you're out, get a designated driver. If you're out drinking, absolutely do not drive," said Sgt. Steve McDaniel with the Jonesboro Police Department.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. is done in the way of binge drinking, which many people will do tonight. People will then make the mistake of getting behind the wheel.

For the dangers of binge drinking, click here.

McDaniel said the main purpose of DWI checkpoints is to deter people from drinking and driving in the first place.

"The checkpoints are there as a deterrent. Of course, because not all people respond to the deterrence, we do get some dais," said McDaniel.

Police said they use sobriety checkpoints on top of regular traffic patrols to stop people from drinking and driving, but police oftentimes catch people for other violations, something Sarah Longwell with the American Beverage Institute said is unconstitutional.

"The reason that they're allowed to hold these checkpoints at all is that it was addressed in the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court ruled that these checkpoints weren't illegal. They weren't in violation of the legal search and seizure in the constitution, but they ruled that back when they believed that drunk driving presented us with enough of a threat out there that these checkpoints could be valid," said Longwell.

"Pulling cops off the streets, having them stand in one place, hoping that drunk drivers come to them is not targeted enforcement, is not effective, and it's the reason that if you look at, if you ask the police officers or any safety officials how many drunk drivers these checkpoints typically net, they'll tell you that it's infinitesimal," said Longwell.

The American Beverage Institute has said organizations such as MADD and the NHTSA are wrong to focus on checkpoints, and has stated it would like both to stop pushing for increased roadblocks.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the BAC of a typical drunk driver involved in a fatal crash is twice over the legal limit.

Longwell said sobriety checkpoints rarely pinpoint these individuals.

"Sobriety checkpoints are the wrong way to catch drunk drivers because they're not focusing on the hardcore alcoholics who are out there causing the vast majority of alcohol related fatalities on our highways," said Longwell.

"People who are intent on going out, drinking heavily and driving home will simply go around these checkpoints. The people who end up being targeted at these checkpoints are the responsible adults who had either been drinking moderately and legally prior to driving or people who haven't been drinking at all," said Longwell.

McDaniel said the "Over the Limit, Under Arrest" campaign is about informing the public of their intentions, with hopes of stopping alcohol related accidents before a person becomes intoxicated.

"We want voluntary compliance with the law, so we're trying to educate the public out there that if you drink and you drive, you will be arrested," said McDaniel.

"We can't just use our law enforcement to make it seem like we're doing something against drunk driving, which is what these checkpoints are. They're a PR mechanism. It's about looking like the cops are out there. Instead we actually have to have cops out there. We have to have them out on the streets, looking for people who are putting people's lives at risk out on the highway," said Longwell.

"If you are drinking, be smart, get a designated driver. Make arrangements before you go out and party. Don't wait till the last minute and then try to find a sober driver at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. Make your plans early. Get a designated driver. Be safe. Have a great new year," said McDaniel.

"If they are caught drinking and driving at one of the sobriety checkpoints or as part of the saturation or part of our regular traffic patrol, of course, they'll be arrested. They may have to spend some time in jail and they're going to make an appearance in front of the judge," said McDaniel.