Checkpoints proving their value, says Upson Sheriff

Sheila A. Mathews Staff Writer

November 6, 2013

Don’t drink and drive – it is a very simple concept, but one far too often ignored at the cost of innocent lives. The Upson County Sheriff’s Office is committed to decreasing the toll this crime takes and one tool it utilizes is routine license checkpoints.

“They’re a great tool to make the roads safer. We utilize them routinely and have made a positive impact as far as reducing the number of impaired drivers on the roadway,” said Sheriff Dan Kilgore.

Statistics for 2012 indicate the need for intervention such as license checkpoints, as UCSO personnel made a total of 167 DUI arrests. It is not known how many were made through the use of checkpoints versus road patrols.

Although deputies are well-trained to identify characteristics of impairment – whether attributable to alcohol or drugs – such as erratic driving, the license checkpoints provide them with an opportunity for systematic screening in a more controlled environment.

They also provide the additional benefit of identifying those driving without valid licenses or insurance; individuals who may have outstanding arrest warrants; and other violations, such as illegal drug possession.

Despite the fact that the use of such law enforcement techniques has been proven to increase safety, some erroneously view license checkpoints as a violation of their rights or selective enforcement of the law.

However, Kilgore emphasized that all such operations are conducted in such a manner as to comply with state law.

“The law provides that number one, the license checkpoint has to be planned by a supervisor in advance. We check every vehicle that comes through because it can’t be checked randomly,” he said. “We also make sure the deputies there are sufficiently trained to detect impairment and conduct field sobriety testing.”

While some may view such operations as an inconvenience, they typically prove to be a very brief delay for motorists.

“The time delay for the motorist is minimal,” Kilgore said. “Most people are glad to see you there. While we want to conduct sobriety checkpoints, we don’t want to conduct them in the same location so regularly as to inconvenience the residents of any particular roadway.”

In addition, he said each of the operations is plainly indicated by signage to assure drivers that it is an official action of the Sheriff’s Office, so there is no cause for concern in stopping.

To ensure safety for drivers and his personnel, Kilgore recommends waiting until your vehicle is stopped to produce a license and other documents.

Another aspect to the success of license checkpoints is community support, which he said is generally the case. However, technology does play a role in the outcome.

“It’s been challenging, since electronic communication has become so much more widely used. People will post it (the checkpoint location) on Facebook or they tweet it on Twitter to notify others,” Kilgore said. “It is a challenge. I’m sure some people want to avoid the checkpoints, but I would hope the people who make these notifications consider how they may be putting someone else’s life in jeopardy. Our ultimate goal is to make our community safer for everyone.”