Nov 10, 2011 3:43 PM by Andy Koen
The state executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Colorado says she fears for "anyone driving and living in Colorado Springs," after learning that the city plans to stop conducting sobriety checkpoints. Emily Tompkins says the decision needlessly jeopardizes drivers by eliminating what she calls a "high-visibility deterrence."
"It's the high-visibility enforcement factor that really gets people not to drive when they're impaired," Tompkins explains. "Just by virtue of knowing that checkpoints are being conducted, keeps people from driving impaired. That alone saves lives."
She points to a 2002 study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that suggests DUI checkpoints reduce alcohol related fatalities and injuries by 20 percent.
In an interview Wednesday with News 5, Mayor Steve Bach said he halted the program because it wasn't an effective way to keep drunk drivers off the streets. As was previously reported, DUI checkpoints conducted by the Colorado Springs Police Department in 2010 and 2011 only resulted in arrests of about 1 percent of the drivers who were stopped.
The mayor and the police chief believe high-visibility saturation patrols are a more effective means of catching drunk drivers.
"We tie up a lot of police officers on check points and he felt that he could re-deploy those officers in a much more effective way with high visibility and saturation patrols," Bach said.
But Tompkins points to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which show that El Paso County has had the highest or second highest number of alcohol related fatalities of any county in the state in four of the past 5 years.
She says a combination of saturation patrols and checkpoints is needed to best confront the problem.
"When you're dealing with a huge problem that puts public safety at risk, then we have to use all of the tools that are proven."
The N.H.T.S.A. data also show a state-wide decline in the number of alcohol related traffic fatalities over the past 5 years. The numbers for El Paso County dropped sharply in 2006, but increased again in 2007 and 2008.