Roadblocks and Checkpoints during the COVID-19 Crisis: Driving in America Blog for April 3, 2020

By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director

In my position as the NMA Communications Director, I skim or read hundreds of motoring news stories every day to bring you the news and to share trends and perspectives. Up until this week, I rarely ran across articles about checkpoints and roadblocks.

The COVID-19 crisis is scary enough, but the thought of police or even local citizens setting up roadblocks or checkpoints to keep locals in and strangers out or to ask why folks are not hunkered in place should scare everyone. NMA blogger John Carr wrote about this very topic in a post this week: The age of fear.

Joe Cadillic at the MassPrivatel Blog also asked this question in a post: What’s Next, Mandatory Coronavirus Checkpoints?

The NMA opposes the use of roadblocks and checkpoints, for any purpose, other than warning motorists of road hazards or other dangerous conditions (such as a flood or a tornado). Roadblocks and Checkpoints have always been on the NMA’s Issues Page and is touched on in one of our seven association principles:

Principle Number 3: Freedom from arbitrary traffic stops and unwanted searches/seizure.

Traditionally, roadblocks and checkpoints are used to cast a wide net that targets hundreds of motorists that catch relatively few offenders. As a matter of fact, we have an entire website devoted to roadblocks at www.roadblock.org that we ask motorists like yourself to self-curate.

A free and open society that champions individual liberty and personal responsibility—the kind of society that we tell the world the USA represents—cannot condone the arbitrary stopping, interrogating, intimidation, and searching of citizens whose only crime is to travel a public highway or street peacefully. This includes the time frame we are in now—the time of the COVID-19 crisis. If we accept this kind of governmental or private behavior now, the supposed “safety benefits” would outweigh the negative totalitarian nature of this practice.

The reason is quite simple: Roadblocks and Checkpoints are designed to use fear, intimidation, and inconvenience and allows police or even private citizens to abuse individuals they choose to target for whatever reason.

TheNewspaper.com reported in March that the Fourth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals found nothing wrong with a police roadblock that was used for the sole purpose of checking driver paperwork. This ruling comes at a wrong time when police roadblocks and checkpoints might become a regular everyday occurrence during the crisis.

In the early morning of March 27th, Greely, Colorado residents reported to the police department that men wearing reflective vests had set up a fake roadblock and questioned motorists for violating the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. This sort of thing could happen more often, and anytime you suspect a fake roadblock or checkpoint, please contact your local police department.

If you encounter a roadblock or checkpoint of any kind during the COVID-19 crisis—please report it to NMA’s Roadblock Registry. Here is some additional information on roadblocks that you might find useful:

Here are other top stories from the past few weeks that might impact Driving in America:

COVID-19

Court Cases of Note

General Driving News

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