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Effectiveness: 4 Star Cost: $$
Use: High
Time: Short

A saturation patrol (also called a blanket patrol or dedicated DWI patrol) consists of a large number of LEOs patrolling a specific area looking for impaired drivers. These patrols usually take place at times and locations where impaired-driving crashes commonly occur. Like publicized sobriety checkpoint programs, the primary purpose of publicized saturation patrol programs is to deter driving after drinking by increasing the perceived risk of arrest. Saturation patrols should be publicized extensively and conducted regularly as part of an ongoing saturation patrol program. State-level enforcement campaigns from 7 States were found effective in reducing 11% to 20% of total alcohol related fatalities when enforcement and paid media were used (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018). NHTSA provides resources on HVE at NHTSA strongly recommends that officers conducting saturation patrols be trained in the SFST battery.

Use: A survey conducted by the Century Council (2008) reported that 44 States used saturation patrols, among the most common alcohol-related enforcement across State as well as local agencies. A national survey reported that 63% of local agencies and 96% of State agencies conducted such patrols (Erickson et al., 2015).

Effectiveness: A demonstration program in Michigan, where sobriety checkpoints are prohibited by State law, revealed that saturation patrols can be effective in reducing alcohol-related fatal crashes when accompanied by extensive publicity (Fell et al., 2008).

Costs: The main costs are for law enforcement time and for publicity. Saturation patrol operations are quite flexible in both the number of officers required and the time that each officer participates in the patrol. As with sobriety checkpoints, publicity can be costly if paid media is used.

Time to implement: Saturation patrols can be implemented within 3 months if officers are trained in detecting impaired drivers and in SFST. See the NHTSA HVE toolkit for implementation information (

Other issues:

  • Legality: Saturation patrols are legal in all jurisdictions.
  • Publicity: As with sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols should be highly visible and publicized extensively to be effective in deterring impaired driving. Communication and enforcement plans should be coordinated. Messages should clearly and unambiguously support enforcement. Paid media may be necessary to complement social media, news stories, and other earned media, especially in a continuing saturation patrol program (Goodwin et al., 2005, Strategy B1).
  • Arrests: While the primary purpose of saturation patrols is to deter drinking after driving by increasing the perceived risk of arrest, saturation patrols also can be very effective in arresting impaired drivers. For example, LEOs in Minnesota conducted 290 saturation patrols in 2006, stopping 33,923 vehicles and arresting 2,796 impaired drivers (Century Council, 2008). A 10% increase in the DUI arrest rate (from enforcement  including saturation patrols and checkpoints) lowers alcohol-related crash rates by 1% (Fell et al., 2014). Similar to publicized sobriety checkpoint programs, publicized saturation patrol programs are also effective in detecting other driving and criminal offenses.