Over a weekend in early June, off-duty Alabama law enforcement officers in St. Clair and Bibb counties stopped traffic in several locations. The researchers asked the drivers to participate in a “voluntary” anonymous study. The study involved asking the motorists to answer several questions, provide a blood sample, provide a throat swab and undergo a breathalyzer test. The motorists who gave blood were paid $50.00 and those who gave the throat swab were paid $10.00.
The survey is called the “2013 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drugged Driving.” It aims to determine how many drivers may be driving drunk or with illegal drugs in their system. Our Tuscaloosa accident lawyers know that answering this question is important to determine how the safety of our roads. Yet, while the study may have a noble purpose, some have expressed concern over the manner in which it was conducted.
Concerns Over Research Safety Study
According to Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which is the group that coordinated the study, the public was “very receptive” to the study and the experience was “all very pleasant.”
However, Alabama.com indicates that not everyone was happy about it. The late hour at which the samples were taken coupled with the fact that there were deputies present, raised concerns about whether the research stations were, in fact, de facto road blocks that were set up to force drivers to give information to the government and to potentially be charged with drunk or drugged driving.
The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unlawful and unreasonable search and seizure and, while drunk driving checkpoints have become common in many states, strict procedural rules must be followed to ensure that no rights are violated.
In this case, the manner in which the road blocks were constructed and the presence of deputies raises concerns about whether people’s rights really were protected or about how voluntary the survey may have seemed to those who were asked to provide the information and submit to the testing.
One survey respondent also indicated that she was not given any kind of consent form to sign before participating. However, researchers said that this was necessary in order to protect anonymity and that oral consent was given. Further, researchers indicate that law enforcement was present only to protect safety and not to create a situation where people felt pressured into giving their information or feared arrest for intoxicated driving.
Those who conducted the research also said that these types of studies have been done extensively in the past. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published the results of the 2/?p=1007 survey and this publication reported that the same type of surveying had been done for the last four decades. The proliferation of social media may have contributed to more drivers becoming aware of the survey and thus raising concerns about privacy issues in this case.
The outcome of the survey provides important information on drunk driving. It is important for studies like this to continue in order for the NHTSA and lawmakers to make decisions that make the roads safer. But it is equally important to ensure that the studies are done in a way that insures motorists’ rights are protected.
Tires and Summer Heat Can Prove Fatal Combination, Alabama Injury Attorney Blog, July 3, 2013.