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Washington state's Traffic Safety Commission found that highly publicized saturation patrols were effective in the state's three most populous counties. (The state doesn't use checkpoints.) King, Snohomish and Pierce counties have shown a drastic drop in DUI-related fatalities using stepped-up patrols and awareness campaigns.
"What we've seen is a 30 percent drop in those counties [in DUI-related fatalities]," says Shelly Baldwin, director of the commission's Impaired Driving Program.
"When people believe they're going to be caught, they'll change their behavior," Baldwin says.
Still, Baldwin says checkpoints are an irresistible tool for law enforcement if they're available. "You're lucky you have checkpoints."
Mikkelsen estimates that a visible location for his checkpoint protests can lead to more than half of the drivers avoiding the checkpoints. Mikkelsen sounds proud of himself.
"I get a lot of positive feedback," he boasts. "So it makes me feel good once I'm there."
Even if his warnings are met with appreciation, Mikkelsen and his allies face ethical questions. By giving away the locations of DUI checkpoints on Twitter to more than 5,000 followers and providing alternate routes, Mikkelsen and KCCheckpoint are potentially keeping drunken drivers on the road.
Mikkelsen and Tim reject the notion that what they're doing isn't right. Tim doubts that people who get soused in Westport and then get behind the wheel are taking the time to look up KCCheckpoint on Twitter.
"These aren't people that get online to check Twitter to find out if they're going to end up going through a checkpoint," Tim says. "These are people that are suicidal. They are out of their mind to be driving drunk."
Tim reluctantly concedes that conducting checkpoints during holidays known for partying — New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day, Memorial Day — could be effective and less of an intrusion, even if he still dislikes them.
"That's when people are more likely to drive drunk," Tim says. "What we've done is given police a slippery slope. We've given them something that has no level of control."
Mikkelsen's stance is more entrenched. He won't agree that checkpoints restricted to targeted days are acceptable. He claims that he can eyeball drivers who appear to be drunk.
"When I stand at a police checkpoint, I can tell which people should be pulled over by the way they're driving, without having to pull over every single car," he says.
Mikkelsen is adamant that he's not responsible for any drunken drivers who elude police.
"Because they decide to drive drunk, I'm not going to hold my sign down. To me, that's discriminate," Mikkelsen says. "If I'm exercising that speech, I want to exercise it to everybody."
He says his goal is to let people drive wherever they're going.
"I want everybody to just make it home safe," he says. "I don't want anybody to have to deal with the police. And the reason why is because I feel like police — they're willing to use violence against peaceful people."
His Main Street location affords him plenty of streetlights to stand under on this late-October Friday night. Traffic lights assure a captive audience at intersections.
As the night goes on, traffic slows a little near the checkpoint, but several cars honk in appreciation. Despite this being Mikkelsen's second checkpoint protest of the night (he was in Mission earlier), he is an energetic blur of righteousness and adrenaline, bounding up and down the street shouting, tweeting out details, maintaining the live stream online, and talking to people who walk by.
"Take a right if your evening's been awesome," one of Mikkelsen's fellow protesters tells a driver.