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Many states conduct sobriety checkpoints as a drunk driving prevention technique; Alaska is not among them. In general, the states that do not run sobriety checkpoints do so because it would violate state law. These states include Wisconsin, Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota and Oregon.
In the case of Alaska, however, there is nothing in the state’s constitution that prevents the checkpoints. They are just not conducted. This could mean that many more drivers take to the road intoxicated when they would not have otherwise-and they could cause car accidents.
Statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving show that checkpoints require only three, four or five police officers to succeed and that, for law-abiding drivers, they are no more inconvenient than a red light. Perhaps most importantly, the checkpoints might reduce DUI crashes and fatalities by as much as 24 percent.
So, Alaska does not conduct sobriety checkpoints, much to the chagrin of MADD. Does that mean law enforcement generally turns a blind eye to drunk driving? Of course not.
On July 4 and other occasions, various Alaska law enforcement officials come together to increase their presence on the roads for a certain time frame. In fact, they tend to heavily publicize this type of presence. The hope is that drivers hear about the heightened presence and decide not to drink or to make safer transportation choices.
Alaska enacted a law in 2009 that requires drivers convicted of driving while drunk to use ignition interlocks. Since then, the state has seen its drunk driving fatalities drop by 28 percent, according to MADD.
Overall, the state has seen a drop in DUI arrests. Part of this is likely attributable to changing attitudes. That is, driving while intoxicated is tolerated much less than it used to be. Law enforcement and allies are getting the word out about stiffer penalties that back up the attitude change. Even the youth culture has changed. Many high school students get drunk-driving awareness at prom time, for example.
Alaska has also recognized the menace that distracted driving can be-texting while behind the wheel, for instance, and is trying to shift cultural attitudes there too. The same goes with driving under the influence of marijuana. Thus, references to driving while intoxicated in the state may often be called “driving impaired” to include these other scenarios.
No matter what, though, people do drive drunk in Alaska. Some do not get caught and do not hurt others. Other times, they do, and the consequences can be devastating. People can suffer brain injury. Maybe they will never walk again or work again. An attorney can help those affected seek compensation.