New roadside drug, alcohol survey could include you

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by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on June 5, 2014 at 6:44 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 5 at 9:01 AM

A first-of-its-kind survey in Washington state will soon offer motorists the option of testing for drugs and alcohol on the side of the road.

The project, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is designed to give a useful snapshot of how many drivers may be impaired. It is a voluntary test and, if a driver consents, they will be asked a series of questions and could offer a saliva sample and a blood sample.

Motorists who volunteer for the entire survey are given a $60 stipend. The survey takes about 20 minutes.

The project is currently planned during the month of June in King, Snohomish, Kitsap, Yakima and Spokane counties.

"This is strictly about research, not enforcement," said Jonna VanDyk, project manager with the state Traffic Safety Commission. "This data will be valuable for so many different agencies and policy makers."

VanDyk says the survey will provide a look at how legalized recreational marijuana will impact drivers, too. The survey will be conducted again seven months after marijuana stores have been opened.

In Pennsylvania, where the survey has also been tried, at least one driver is suing with claims his civil rights were violated by being forced into the research.

VanDyk says the survey is strictly voluntary, and if a driver is impaired, researchers are trained to offer that person safe options home.

"Questions vary from, ‘Can we get you a cab', to, 'Can we buy you a hotel room,’” VanDyk said.

A police officer will be at each research station and prepared to make DUI arrests. The research company conducting the survey says that hasn't happened in 13,000 tests even though impaired drivers have been known to stop for the survey.

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