Saturation Patrols

Definition: Saturation patrols involve law enforcement deploying additional police officers to targeted roadways during select time periods to detect and apprehend impaired drivers.

Executive Summary: The primary focus for officers during these patrols is to find impaired drivers by observing changes in driving behaviors, while also looking out for any traffic violations by motorists. The behaviors most often assessed are: lane deviation, following too closely, reckless or aggressive driving and/or speeding (Greene, 2003). The intention of this heavier police presence is to increase motorists’ perception that they will be arrested if they drive impaired. Saturation patrols take place in all 50 states, and do not present many legal issues beyond those associated with routine traffic stops.

More Detail: Measured in arrests per working hour, these blanket patrols are viewed by some as the most effective method of apprehending impaired drivers (Greene, 2003). Saturation patrols can be as effective, or more effective than sobriety checkpoints in apprehending hardcore alcohol-impaired drivers who often evade checkpoints. Many police departments favor them over sobriety checkpoints for their effectiveness, reduced staffing requirements, and the comparative ease of operating saturation patrols. Adequate publicity is needed though, to reap the deterrence effect more commonly associated with sobriety checkpoints.

Suggested Audience: Enforcement

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