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.