MADD fears cuts in Missouri state-funded sobriety checkpoints could cost lives

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri's House of Representatives voted in favor of a proposal to cut funds for sobriety checkpoints. Now "state-funded" sobriety checkpoints would basically be eliminated because they would receive just one dollar in funding in 2018, instead of the most recent budget's $20 million.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) said thousands of people are already dying because of drunk drivers annually, and they fear this change will make that number go up.

“A repeat drunk driving offender crossed the center line, and hit the vehicle that he and his good friend, Teddy, were in, and unfortunately my dad didn`t survive,” said Leann Lewis, a MADD Volunteer.

“My sister was hit by a drunk driver, and her daughter was in the car, so we lost my niece and my sister at the same time,” added Annette Murray, another MADD volunteer. “About a year and a half later, my brother-in-law was killed by a drunk driver, that was my sister`s husband.... so in one small family unit, we`ve lost three people to two separate drunk driving crashes.”

MADD representatives say House Bill 4 by Representative Scott Fitzpatrick would set them back.

“I`m really scared that innocent lives will be at stake,” Lewis said.

The bill will now be sent to the senate for approval. It proposes only one dollar for state-funded DWI checkpoints.

Rep. Fitzpatrick said there's a more cost effective way of getting drunk drivers off the roads.

“In 2016 alone, there were more than 3,000 arrests as a result of saturation patrols, there were far fewer as a result of check points, and the checkpoint arrests cost over 1,000 dollars apiece to perform,” he said. “We`re not telling local law enforcement agencies they can`t do them, if they want to do them, they can, but the state funds that go toward getting drunk drivers off the road are going to be better spent with saturation patrols.”

MADD volunteers say some statistics can't be measured..

“The media publishes there`s going to be checkpoints, and just from talking to people, I know that they`re either going to find a different way home, or they`re going to not go out and drink and drive, so there`s no way to check on those statistics,” Murray added.

“We still are losing about 10,000 innocent lives annually to impaired drivers, and that`s with sobriety check points in full force right now, and if we cut funding in Missouri and don`t have sobriety check points, I`m afraid the death toll will rise,” said Lewis.

“To me, the best method is to employ both strategies, to just throw away a strategy makes no sense to me, especially a strategy that`s proven to be effective,” said DUI Sergeant Christopher Bentch, with the Kansas City Police Department

Some MADD volunteers say they've been writing their representatives, and are encouraging others to also to stop this in the Senate.