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Roadside surveys to be probed

Published: Fri, March 7, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

The chairman of the House transportation committee said Thursday he wants to make sure a federal roadside survey on drinking and drugged driving is being conducted appropriately after motorists complained about being forced off the road and asked to provide breath, blood and saliva samples.

Rep. Bill Shuster said his committee will investigate the National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drugged Driving, the government’s periodic effort to determine how many of the nation’s motorists are driving while drunk or high.

“While over the years this survey has provided valuable highway safety information, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is looking into this issue, and we want to ensure that it is being conducted in an appropriate manner,” Shuster, R-Pa., told The Associated Press.

The survey has been conducted five times since 1973. U.S. transportation officials call it a vital tool for monitoring the safety of America’s roadways, and groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety support it. But some motorists and civil- liberties advocates contend the government’s methods are intrusive and unconstitutional.

Conducted in 60 cities around the nation, the survey yields the government’s best estimate of the prevalence of impaired driving. Motorists are randomly selected — either by a uniformed police officer or a private contractor working for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — and waved into a parking lot, where they are questioned about their drinking and driving habits, asked to take a breath test and offered money if they provide saliva and blood samples or agree to answer a more extensive written survey.

Federal officials stress the survey is voluntary and anonymous, with survey respondents who are found to be impaired either driven home or put up in a hotel.

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