"I'm concerned that motorists who encounter these surveys are not properly informed the survey is voluntary." - Rep. Tom Petri

Last year, the National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drugged Driving kicked off in 60 cities across the US. The survey, as the name suggests, attempts to gauge the level of drunk and drugged driving on US roads. This is the fifth time the voluntary survey has been conducted since 1973, but this latest round has raised the ire of some motorists and lawmakers.

The big thing making headlines is the use of a passive alcohol sensor. It's a device that can collect breath samples while several inches from a person's face. Previously, it was being done without the consent of survey participants, and in some cases, before citizens even agreed to participate in the survey.

"I'm certainly supportive of research on drunk driving, but I'm concerned that motorists who encounter these surveys are not properly informed the survey is voluntary," said Tom Petri, the chairman of the House Highway and Transit Subcommittee, during a hearing. "We are increasingly living in a society where people are worrying about Big Brother, and government overstepping its bounds in a number of different areas, and I think we need to be sensitive to that."

Petri's statements, along with questions from people confronted by officers and contractors, has led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ban the use of passive alcohol sensors without the explicit permission of people that have agreed to participate in the survey.

Acting NHTSA Administrator David Friedman said the regulator was, "removing the initial use of an air sampler to test the level of alcohol on people's breath, to ensure that we get their consent first before gathering any data."

There's also a degree of concern from lawmakers about the use of uniformed officers in the surveys, which may give the impression that participation is required. "The public is clearly, we're hearing from them they are concerned about this," Representative Petri said.

The practice doesn't seem likely to end, though, with Friedman saying, "I understand those concerns and we've continued to take those concerns very seriously."

What are your thoughts on this development? Is the government at fault for authorizing the use of these sensors? Would you participate in the survey if confronted by an officer or a contractor? Let us know by posting your thoughts in Comments.


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  • 24 Comments
      William
      • 11 Months Ago
      No person, place or entities... Is above the law... The law it's self is not above the law........WELL that's the way it's suppose to work in this nation (and should work in all nations) but it doesn't... every day more freedoms are taking away all in the name of freedom... Anybody find that funny? This nation of people have become brain washed.... Into what you might ask.... I say into thinking that we need the government in or everyday lives... They are suppose to serve and to protect us from Foreign lands... not to rob us blind of the money we work hard for,, Not to pass laws that press people to become second class Citizens... When are we going to stop putting rich people in power to have everyday control of our lives H##l they got rich by screwing people over.. the only Difference now is they screw we the people.... Taking more of your and my freedom each and EVERYDAY more of or money.. wont be long we will be like zombies
      JaredN
      • 11 Months Ago
      Our government is broke. We owe trillions to China. And we are wasting taxpayer money on boondoggles like this? If most of the people at NHTSA were laid off, who would notice? There are so many people in .gov who need to be fired. In the meantime, "Papieren, bitte"
        Zaki
        • 11 Months Ago
        @JaredN
        Amen...And as far as so many in gov who need to be fired...we can start at the top and work our way down. This applies to State and Fed Gov., Rep and Dem. Government inefficiency and red tape, excessive legislation and oppressive laws have put the hardworking people of the country in a bondage. Too many useless laws, too many hurdles to jump over and too little reward for taking risk and burning the midnight oil...this is not the way to becoming a global leader....a distinction we lost a long time ago. Of the people, by the people and for the people used to mean something....it ought to once again!
      scott3
      • 11 Months Ago
      Everyone wants to bash the cops. How about the idiots that do not take personal responsibility and drive drunk requiring these kinds of issues to be brought up. Hell we just had a drunk idiot in TX kill people after mowing down a crowd. Blame the cause not the symptom.
        Ajr Ajr
        • 11 Months Ago
        @scott3
        it's also why auto insurance is mandatory and dozens and dozens of safety regulations
      Firefly
      • 11 Months Ago
      Did anyone notice in the movie 'Transformers' that the police Mustang Decepticon (Barricade) had 'To Enslave And Punish' written on him? That should be clue enough....
        Anonymous
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Firefly
        Actually the writing was "To Punish and Enslave." If you're going to quote the movies, get it right please.
          Firefly
          • 11 Months Ago
          @Anonymous
          Oh, I'm so sorry Mr. Ebert for misquoting a bit of text on an old movie that I had not seen in years. Excuse my temporary f***ing dyslexia. I'll remember that the next time I see you at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards...
        Ajr Ajr
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Firefly
        pulling over possible drunks is serving and protecting all those who share the road. The only clue you should've gotten from a Michael Bay movie is to not see another one.
      Hazdaz
      • 11 Months Ago
      Easy way for cops to get around this... COP: "Citizen, do you allow me to use this sensor to tell if you have been drinking, or do you want to go to jail?"
        VDuB
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Hazdaz
        Exactly. Refusing a breathalyzer automatically gets your license suspended for a year. Land of the free huh.....
          Cool Disco Dan
          • 11 Months Ago
          @VDuB
          I don't drink and would refuse a breathalyzer with out a warrant. Then litigate it as far as I needed to.
          Brodz
          • 11 Months Ago
          @VDuB
          Wow that's harsh... but still, people shouldn't be drink driving... so that's fair.
        Winnie Jenkems
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Hazdaz
        Citizen: "No."
      Narom
      • 11 Months Ago
      Dont you have a law like in the UK that you have to provide a specimen when required and failing to do so is an offense?
        JaredN
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Narom
        Here in the US, police can only ask for a breathalyzer if they have reason to suspect that you have been drinking. They can't just randomly pull a car over and tell you to blow in the tube.
        Patrick Corcoran
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Narom
        It's called 'implied consent', meaning that when you get a license you are consenting to submit to chemical testing if there is evidence that you are inebriated. In most states if you refuse your license will be suspended, often for longer than it would be if you submit. In some states they can forcibly extract blood if you don't comply. I believe implied consent is law throughout the US.
      DyanRucar
      • 11 Months Ago
      That's not entirely true. At least in Arizona, you can refuse said breathalzer twice before "voluntarily" having one's license suspended for 12 months.
      David Cotner
      • 11 Months Ago
      to start with if this is a survey then they should have signs stating it is a survey being conducted, then the people that decide to help with the survey should have to sign a statement that they understand it is a survey and consent to a breath test and it is only voluntarily are doing so. I have not drank in over 20 years and I don't take surveys what so ever..............................................
      Dr_Feelgood
      • 11 Months Ago
      Only problem is the survey sample is gonna be heavily tainted by bias. People who drank alcohol for the past 48 hours at least are unlikely to consent to the breath testing. It will only yield accurate findings if they do not know they're being tested. The reason clinical trials for drugs for example are randomized and double blind (both the patient and the doctor do not know if the patient is being given the real drug or the placebo) is precisely to eliminate this sort of bias. So might as well just not do the survey because the results will be statistically useless anyway.
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