Federal Study Has Motorists Stopped for Blood, Saliva Tests

By:  Jack Kenny
Federal Study Has Motorists Stopped for Blood, Saliva Tests

Motorists on America's highways are being randomly stopped and asked for breath, blood, and saliva samples in a $7.9 million research project of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Fort Worth, Texas, citizen protests over the stops brought an apology from the city's police chief over the participation of off-duty police officers in the project, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

"I agree with our citizens' concerns, and I apologize for our participation," Chief Jeffrey Halstead said. "Any future federal survey of this nature, which jeopardizes the public's trust, will not be approved for the use of Fort Worth police."

The roadside stops were made in Fort Worth on November 29 as part of a nationwide study called the National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers. Fort Worth police officers, who were off duty but in uniform, directed motorists into a parking area where people wearing lab coats asked for permission to take breath, blood and saliva samples, the Star-Telegram reported, noting that protocols provided by the federal safety agency require that the motorists be informed that their participation is voluntary and that they will be paid if they take part. According to the report of a similar study conducted the agency in 2007, involving some 9,000 drivers nationwide, participants were paid $10 to $50.

Some drivers objected to the reason for the stops and the "voluntary" nature of participation in a program to which people has also been called into question.

"I can see a [DWI] check or a random stop for insurance/registration," said an email writer to the Star-Telegram. "But to stop drivers for no apparent reason other than to complete a survey seems excessive." The American Civil Liberties Union called the searches "among the most invasive police can conduct."

"We're glad the police chief recognizes that these supposedly voluntary searches should never have happened," Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, told Newsmax.com  "People have a right to expect that the police won't randomly stop people who aren't suspected of any wrongdoing and demand blood or saliva samples."

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