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Many of us have come to rely on Facebook, Twitter and other social media for the most relevant news and updates -- both on our friends' lives and the larger world around us. Whether it's to stay informed on breaking world news or where our friends are meeting up on Saturday night, social media has become an invaluable tool in our everyday lives.

Law enforcement authorities, it seems, are following suit. Police and sheriff's departments across Missouri recognize that people use social media to help each other avoid trouble when it comes to drinking and driving, and are using this knowledge to sharpen their drunk driving enforcement strategies -- in particular, the DWI sobriety checkpoints.

To understand how this strategy works, first consider how the typical sobriety checkpoint operates: Police choose a busy weekend night, when the largest amount of people are expected to be out traveling to and from bars, restaurants and parties. They station themselves on busy roads and systematically stop cars to check for signs of alcohol impairment in drivers.

A checkpoint that lasts several hours can net a high number of intoxicated drivers -- as long as they don't see the checkpoint coming. But people have begun to use social media to alert others about the location of these checkpoints, which can make them less effective. A sure sign is when passengers of drivers being questioned can be seen on their smartphones, typing away on Facebook or Twitter. When the DWI checkpoint lines begin to dwindle, police know the word has gotten out and it's time to change locations. Some departments have gone so far as to hold their checkpoints on weeknights, when drivers don't expect to be pulled over. Setting up camp on less-traveled roads has also proved effective for some officers.

Still, police recognize that no matter how they change their checkpoint strategies, word travels fast. People will likely continue to tell their friends where police are conducting DWI enforcement, and will continue to use social media themselves to develop new ways to stop drunk drivers. Even on a sleepy Tuesday night, it pays to stay informed.

Source: CBS St. Louis, "Social Media Alters Strategy on DUI Enforcement," April 13, 2013

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