Birmingham, AL- The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration recently began a nationwide study to determine how many drivers hit the road with drugs in their system. But their methods are raising concerns over individual privacy.
The first of these roadblocks went up last week in two areas outside Birmingham, Alabama. For two day deputies off-duty sheriff’s deputies stopped drivers and asked them to submit samples of their blood and saliva, according to CNN.
The deputy’s directed drivers to federal employees who asked them questions about their alcohol and drug use. Drivers were also asked to submit blood and saliva samples which they were paid $50 and $10 respectively
Even though these types of studies have been conducted for decades beginning in the 1970s, this study is happening in a time when the Obama administration is under increased scrutiny over individual privacy.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley was concerned about the roadblocks stating that his office was never told about the study and was critical of the timing in light of the NSA spying scandal.
The roadblocks also raised the hackles the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The executive director Susan Watson said that having deputies stop drivers was an “abuse of power” asserting that even though participation was voluntary, people feel obliged to comply because they are being stopped by law enforcement, CNN reported.
Deputies were instructed to not make any arrests but were allowed to escort any intoxicated drivers homes.
The NHTSA says these roadblocks are necessary and provides them with crucial information which helps reduce drunk and drugged driving rates.
“The survey provides useful data about alcohol and drug use by drivers, and participation is completely voluntary and anonymous,” the NHTSA said in a statement. “More than 60 communities across the country will participate this year, including two Alabama counties, both of which also participated in the previous survey in 2007. NHTSA always works closely with state safety officials and local law enforcement to conduct these surveys as we work to better inform our efforts to reduce drunk and drugged driving.”
The agency collected 7,700 saliva samples and 3,300 blood samples, voluntarily and anonymously and the information collected will not be used to charge anyone of a crime.
Results from the 2007 revealed that a 12.9 percent of nighttime drivers had alcohol in their systems while 16 percent had marijuana, cocaine or over-the-counter or prescription drugs in their systems.
The NHTS statement said, “Impaired driving accounts for more than 10,000 deaths per year, and findings from this survey will be used to maximize the impact of policy development, education campaigns, law enforcement efforts and other activities aimed at reducing this problem.”
They anticipate that 8,000 people will participate in the study.
This same study did not create a controversy that last time it was conducted, but many Americans have become increasingly skeptical of broad studies like this may perceive the blood and saliva tests as intrusive.