Using Twitter to Avoid Drunk Driving Checkpoints

The holiday season brings cheers and good times. But sometimes there are a few too many cheers, so police set up checkpoints to catch dangerous drunk drivers. Now people are using technology to get around them.

People are using Twitter and text messages to alert their friends of DUI checkpoints. There is even an iPhone application designed to identify checkpoints, according to Sgt. Dave Gibeault, head of the Fresno Police Department's traffic unit.

Gibeault says it's mostly young people using these tools, and they are the ones who are most at risk of drunk driving. In fact, his own daughter often sends him text messages about where she's heard he's running checkpoints.

Fresno attorney Brian Andritch sees nothing wrong with efforts to spread the word about checkpoints. Andritch, who used to prosecute drunken drivers when he worked in the Fresno County District Attorney's Office, now defends them — and warns others about sobriety checkpoints on Twitter.

"I don't see how it's any different than what police are doing in promoting checkpoints," he said.

Gibeault said it's one thing to spread the word about checkpoints in general, which police want. It's quite another to provide information that encourages people to beat the traps and drive drunk.

Gibeault also said the purpose of the checkpoints isn't to take drunken drivers off the road -- it's to prevent them from getting in the car in the first place.

In 2001, experts convened by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reached the same conclusion. The group concluded checkpoints reduced alcohol-related accidents by an average 20 percent.

"Although checkpoints may remove some drinking drivers from the road, their primary goal is to reduce driving after drinking by increasing the perceived risk of arrest," the researchers said.

But?if people know where the checkpoints are via technology, they can drink and simply avoid those roads where the cops are.


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