The police effort on Cinco de Mayo was understandable. The holiday is often associated with libations, such as the St. Patrick's Day holiday. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2002 to 2006, an average of 43 percent of all highway fatalities on May 5 and overnight into the early morning of May 6 were caused by impaired drivers with a blood alcohol content level of .08 percent and above. So the California Office of Traffic Safety provided funds to local law enforcement agencies to set up the sobriety checkpoints and it also asked for the public's help in reporting drunken drivers by calling 911.
Although the Bernal Avenue checkpoint delayed many motorists, it also resulted in the arrest of four drivers who were charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. One arrest was for a combination DUI and drug possession charge. In addition, a total of 15 vehicles were impounded and police charged several more drivers with using a suspended driver's license or having none. A total of 1,134 vehicles were screened during the 4-1/2-hour effort that started near the end of rush-hour at 6:30 p.m., with 26 drivers investigated for license violations and 14 given police citations.
In her complaint to the Weekly, Longwell said that Pleasanton police "spent a lot of officers' time and taxpayers' money to arrest just four drunk drivers out of 1,134 cars stopped. That's a meager 0.3 percent success rate." Longwell and her organization, which represents restaurants that serve alcohol, believes that California law enforcement agencies would likely make far more arrests if they spent their available patrol time roaming the streets looking for drunk drivers. She has a point. Because Monday's sobriety checkpoint was highly visible by design and publicized in advance, it seemed it could be all too easily avoided by the chronic alcohol abusers that comprise the core of today's drunken driving problems. A report by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, in fact, shows that the number of DUIs made by roving patrol programs is nearly 10 times the average number of DUIs made by checkpoint programs.
Although we're glad that at least four drunk drivers were apprehended and hundreds of drivers were educated by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) materials in the Cinco de Mayo checkpoint, we have to ask if the dozen or more officers we saw from five different law enforcement agencies might have found even more inebriated drivers on their own home turf where their intentions weren't broadcast publicly in advance.