NHTSA's Voluntary Roadside Blood-And-Saliva Survey Heads To Seattle With A Much Greater Emphasis On 'Voluntary'

from the it-can-be-taught dept

Although it's already been burned twice for its intrusive, not-mandatory-but-it-sure-looks-that-way "roadside surveys," the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) isn't letting a lot of bad press, a lawsuit and a Congressional investigation slow down its blood-and-saliva collections. After two straight debacles (Texas and Pennsylvania), the NHTSA is headed to Seattle in hopes of gauging the effects of newly-legal weed on the driving population. (h/t to Techdirt reader DeComposer)

Government-hired survey teams will soon ask hundreds of Washington state motorists to answer questions and provide samples of breath, saliva and blood — all to give safety and police agencies a clearer sense of how many people drive impaired.

The roadside surveys are voluntary, and participants will be paid up to $60, under the federally funded project this summer.
The only remaining question is how these will be handled. On its two previous attempts, the NHTSA sent an independent contractor to handle the blood draws and saliva collection. And both times, local law enforcement provided officers, vehicles and barricades -- all of which suggested to several motorists that these voluntary collections were far from voluntary. From what's being reported here, it appears that more effort is being made to ensure drivers know these surveys are indeed entirely optional.
Crews will not block or slow traffic, officials say. Drivers at a stoplight would encounter civilians wearing orange vests, with signs saying “Paid Voluntary Survey,” then be asked if they wish to participate.
The article also states that collected data will be destroyed when the report is published and that names and license numbers won't be recorded. The latter sounds ideal, but the reality of the situation is that, unless things have changed, consenting to a blood draw still requires the signature of the volunteer, which means there will be some sort of recording going on. And surveyors will still be collecting non-consensual "samples" using passive alcohol detectors. The defenders of this practice argue that these detectors are actually consensual (due to consent given by volunteering to be surveyed), even though people aren't notified about their existence until after they've already had their breath sampled.

The ACLU is keeping an eye on the NHTSA's newest survey, which, so far at least, seems to be headed towards a more obviously voluntary presentation. That's a huge improvement over its previous efforts and is likely a good indicator of how these will be handled in the future. Law enforcement officers will again be on hand to protect the cash payout and offer options to impaired drivers, but their presence will be far more muted than past instances.

If the NHTSA can learn from its mistakes and move on in a more honest and transparent fashion, it should be able to entice enough volunteers with its cash payments to present credible data at the end of its collection period. If it decides to go back to the old way, however, it will find it increasingly difficult to secure any participation at all.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 2:22pm

    all that is going to happen here is whatever 'samples' that are collected 'voluntarily' they will be added to whatever samples that have been collected both voluntarily and involuntarily so that the data base the government has on people will just get that much bigger, will have more names in it to be watched! the aim of the game is a complete database of every person in the USA. eventually, that will be extended to other countries. that way the USA can actually become what it thinks it is already, The USA World Police!!

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 2:24pm

    If they wanted to see the effects marijuana has on the driving population, they could just save a little energy and look up the car accident statistics on the Netherlands.

     

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  3.  
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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Jun 12th, 2014 @ 2:24pm

    Gah...

    I'd rather they not show up in my home state at all, frankly. Why can't they go bug Colorado instead? Hell, we haven't even finished setting up all the "required bureaucracy" for weed distribution here in Washington yet.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 2:24pm

    ...offer options to impaired drivers...
    And would you like a beating with your incarceration tonight, sir?

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    MrPendent, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 2:32pm

    I can't see why this would be a problem. Who hasn't readily opened their window at a stoplight to allow someone with a "Paid Voluntary Survey" sign to stick something in their mouth?

     

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  6.  
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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Jun 12th, 2014 @ 2:33pm

    Re:

    Hey now, Seattle's not LA or New York. We don't people here... most of the time.

    The officers are just going to repeat the same advice that the folks doing the survey are going to give the impaired drivers ("call a cab or check into a motel" for the most part), just with a little more 'implied weight' behind their words.

    Only if the impaired driver disregards both the volunteer and the officer's advice and STILL tries to drive away while impaired will they get incarcerated (and frankly, they'd deserve a kick or five in the rear for being so blatantly stupid).

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    zip, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 3:08pm

    compile DNA database?

    There are many unsolved crimes in which the suspect's DNA has been identified. Roving roadside checkpoints provide a prime opportunity to compile a public DNA database to forever sift through.

    Or do people really believe that once collected, such samples won't ever be used for anything else?

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 3:23pm

    Re:

    It seems that with the presence of police being there to "offer options", or even at all in any capacity, would deter impaired drivers from volunteering out of a very valid fear of persecution. This would reduce the potential range of people applicable to be surveyed to only those sober, or intoxicated and courageous, and skew results accordingly. If that were to happen, it would invalidate the results. The NHTSA perhaps should consider further changes, once they figure out what "voluntary" actually means.

     

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  9.  
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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Jun 12th, 2014 @ 3:29pm

    Re: Re:

    *We don't beat people here...

    MY KINGDOM FOR AN EDIT BUTTON!

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 3:41pm

    Or do people really believe

    i don't exactly believe anything anymore.

     

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  11.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 12th, 2014 @ 3:47pm

    If you're driving under the influence, why would you stop for a voluntary test even if you could get $60. How could they get any kind of reliable statistics from this?

     

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  12.  
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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Jun 12th, 2014 @ 4:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Huh.

    You'll have that kingdom then... as soon as I can take it back from the Lannisters.

     

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  13.  
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    madasahatter (profile), Jun 12th, 2014 @ 4:11pm

    Re:

    Or wait to see if the accident rates changed from previous years when marijuana was illegal in WA.

     

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  14.  
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    madasahatter (profile), Jun 12th, 2014 @ 4:13pm

    Re: compile DNA database?

    And worse yet the goons will argue the samples were voluntary donated so they do not need a warrant to use the DNA evidence.

     

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  15.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jun 12th, 2014 @ 4:21pm

    Re:

    Well if you're driving under the influence, you've already proven to be somewhat... lacking in the brains department, so it's possible $60 would be enough to draw in at least a few of the more mentally challenged drivers out there.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 4:26pm

    Re:

    If you open your window, they will know right away because monitors carry alcohol-in-breath detectors. Presumably these results will get recorded for all "no" responses that set off their detectors.

     

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  17.  
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    LVDave (profile), Jun 12th, 2014 @ 6:13pm

    Re: Re:

    You might ask the IRS about their definition of "voluntary".. They trumpet how they're all about "voluntary compliance".. Funny, the word "voluntary" kinda negates using the word "compliance" after it..

    Websters sez this about the word "Voluntary" ..
    vol·un·tary
    adjective
    * done or given because you want to and not because you are forced to
    * done or given by choice

    IRS's definition of Voluntary ... We tell you how much to pay, and you voluntarily pay it, or we seize your stuff..

    I get the feeling the cops would tend to lean towards the IRS definition of voluntary...

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 6:33pm

    Re: Gah...

    "Why can't they go bug Colorado instead?"

    I suggest they go to hell.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Cygnus_Rush, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 7:48pm

    Look up insanity

    Obviously they need to look up the definition of insanity as it sure looks like they expect the same results no matter how they dress it.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 6:19am

    Crews will not block or slow traffic, officials say. Drivers at a stoplight would encounter civilians wearing orange vests, with signs saying “Paid Voluntary Survey,” then be asked if they wish to participate.

    I am not sure where you regularly drive, but a guy on the side of the road wearing an orange vest will completely F*** up traffic in Connecticut.

     

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  21.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 6:57am

    Re:

    "I am not sure where you regularly drive, but a guy on the side of the road wearing an orange vest will completely F*** up traffic in Connecticut."

    Really? Why is that?

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re:

    People stop for anything here. I really don't get it.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 7:45am

    Re:

    If we work together, we can solve this problem.

    1) Everyone go get a jar with a good lid.
    2) Put a urine, blood, saliva, and stool sample in the jar and keep it in your car.
    3) When you see someone with an orange vest and a sign saying "Paid Voluntary Survey", throw the jar.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 9:04am

    "credible data"

    "...it should be able to entice enough volunteers with its cash payments to present credible data..."

    Everything about this paradigm in hopelessly flawed for the purpose of drawing inferences about the target population. It will provide "credible data" about people willing to volunteer to be paid. [sarc]No possible biases in that self-selecting subject group.[/sarc]

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 9:14am

    Re:

    Or ask the car insurance companies to start notifying them when there is a bill for cleaning up Cheetos in any accident claims.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 9:17am

    Re:

    They are looking for marijuana use.

    Offering $60 to a stoner out looking for pancakes is like breaking out jars of honey while Pooh is walking by.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re:

    Come to think of it, if they just put up a roadside stand giving away pancakes and Cheetos, they could simply count the cars that stop and the ones that don't and their study would be complete.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 9:53am

    Re: "credible data"

    "Credible Data" went out the window when they decided collecting information on the side of a highway was a good idea.

    When was the last time you saw someone standing next to the highway and thought "THAT guy must be credible"?

     

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  29.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 11:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    We have a fairly recent law where I live that causes this problem with emergency vehicles on the side of the highway now. You are required to change lanes so that there is an empty lane between you and the vehicle. If that's impossible to do, you are required to slow to at most 25 mph.

    This means that anytime the cops pull someone over on the highway, it's an instant traffic jam.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Jack, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re: "credible data"

    When I was looking for serial killers to write about.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 12:06pm

    I don't have time to stop, but I'd be happy to mail them a fecal sample if they'd provide an address.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 12:07pm

    Re:

    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Roux, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 12:20pm

    Voluntary my rear end

    Stay away from Louisiana... we are normally friendly but we've learned that the federal government cannot be trusted.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Ian in FL, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:15pm

    I thought sobriety checkpoints were illegal in WA State without an authorizing statue

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Deserttrek, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:26pm

    prison is the answer

    who ever in government thinks this is a good idea is a piece of garbage and belongs behind bars for the safety of all of us

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 5:58pm

    How 'bout replacing WOODEN watermains we still have in this country?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Drang, Jun 14th, 2014 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re:

    As noted above, while the law has passed, it has not yet gone into effect, so technically, weed isn't legal here. OTOH, the previous prohibitions were being lightly enforced at best, even before it passed, as prosecutors were only going after egregious cases.

    Also, FWIW, in WA a "checkpoint" must stop each and every vehicle to be legal, so the standard model elsewhere wouldn't apply here.

    And the cops here are exactly pristine, the Seattle PD has gotten hammered by the Feds for being over-zealous, so to speak...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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