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Are Colorado's saturation patrols effective?

One of the favored DUI deterrence tactics used by Colorado law enforcement agencies is sending out a swarm of police cars to look for impaired drivers. Known as saturation patrols, these swarms of police -- many of whom have special training to identify signs of intoxication by alcohol, marijuana and other drugs -- are often used on special weekends.

A recent example here in Denver was 4/20, but saturation patrols are also used on Super Bowl weekend, the Fourth of July, St. Patrick's Day, Thanksgiving weekend, New Year's Eve, Labor Day and Memorial Day. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that saturation patrols are generally considered by law enforcement authorities to be effective, but there is some doubt about how long that effectiveness will endure.

According to a study called "Increasing Impaired-Driving Enforcement Visibility," by the NHTSA, the favorite method of deterring drunk driving: sobriety checkpoints. While these can be used in Denver and throughout the state, they don't appear to be used as often as saturation patrols.

The effectiveness of both techniques relies on their visibility. When people see checkpoints or swarms of police cars pulling drivers over, they know cops are out enforcing impaired driving laws. 

The study indicates that the success of saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints is heavily dependent on visibility. Not just on the streets when you see the police in action, but also in the media when there are reports of upcoming enforcement events. It helps put the idea into people's heads: "this weekend might not be a great time to party while I'm out driving."

But the study also noted that it's difficult for police departments to keep getting the media to cover the enforcement events and to keep up the public's interest (and fear). After awhile, the events aren't so rare and are therefore less intimidating.

Regardless, those who have been ensnared in one of these law enforcement events are often intimidated by the thought of facing the criminal justice system. But you don't have to do that alone: there are experienced Denver DUI attorneys ready to help you get through the system and fight for your freedom and your driver's license.

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