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The Costs of DUI Enforcement in Tennessee

Tennessee utilizes a variety of resources in the state’s DUI enforcement campaigns. These include running DUI checkpoints and ad campaigns, using additional law enforcement personnel and DUI prosecutors, and using technologies like breath machines. The costs of equipment, employee overtime and other expenses can become quite significant. For instance, the statewide checkpoints on May 31st cost Tennessee taxpayers about $200,000.

Where does all this money come from? The funds come from a variety of government sources. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) gave Tennessee nearly $25 million in 2011. Almost $2.5 million of this amount was specifically dedicated to impaired driving countermeasures, and the state was also given the opportunity to use much of the rest of the funds for other DUI enforcement programs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) budget request for 2013 was for $981 million which included $643 million for State Grants and High Visibility Enforcement Support. These funds may be used for DUI enforcement including equipment, roadblocks, police training and overtime.

When one considers the significant debt the federal government and most states have, it is worth questioning whether such large amounts of taxpayer money should be allocated in hopes of catching motorists driving with blood alcohol levels over the legal limit.

The cost-benefit analysis of sobriety checkpoints in particular should be questioned. A study by the Texas Transportation Institute showed that officers make one arrest per every 6.5 hours at checkpoints, in comparison to one arrest per every 7.5 hours while on regular patrols. Such a small difference may not justify the significant costs of the programs.

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, FY 2011 State Funding

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