NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas has reported alarming news last week, where uniformed federal contractors were setting roadblocks and stopping random citizens on the road, pulling them over to the side to check their breath, saliva and take a blood test.
The drivers were offered a $10 for a cheek-swab DNA sample, a $50 for blood sample and a free breath sample test.
It turned out, this was a government test-study aimed to determine the amount of drivers under influence of alcohol and drug related charges. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) were stopping people as part of a $7.9 million voluntary National Roadside Survey on drunken or drug-impaired drivers that has been taking place over three years in 30 cities.
“It just doesn’t seem right that you can be forced off the road when you’re not doing anything wrong,” said Kim Cope, who was on a way to a lunch break driving safely to her favorite spot, where she was forcefully pulled over by two police cars with light flashing on Beach Street in North Fort Worth, Texas.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said this survey study had no bad intentions and all participants were 100 percent voluntary.
However, Kim Cope, who called NBC 5 to investigate this incident, said it did not feel voluntary to her. While driving, Kim gestured to the officer who drove parallel to her car near driver’s window, letting the officer know that she is just driving straight, but he would not let her go any further and blocked her path forcing Kim Cope to pull over to a nearest empty parking lot.
When Cope has parked the car and stepped out of the vehicle, she could not believe what was asked of her.
The Police officers were offering a $10 to $50 in cash for a cheek swab and a blood test, where the test for alcohol breath was the least on their mind. Kim Cope tolled NBC5 News reporters she felt trapped, and deiced to let them take a breathalyzer test, thinking it is the lesser evil, mentioning she received no money for that.
Sgt. Kelly Peel said Tuesday that the department’s Traffic Division coordinated with the NHTSA on the use of off-duty officers after the agency called their department asking for help with this survey.
“We are reviewing the actions of all police personnel involved to ensure that FWPD policies and procedures were followed,” he said. “We apologize if any of our drivers and citizens were offended or inconvenienced by the NHTSA National Roadside Survey.”
NBC DFW confirmed that the survey was done by a government contractor, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which is based in Calverton, MD. The agency spokeswoman sent an email confirming the government is conducting the surveys in 30 cities across the country, but did not respond on specific questions regarding this survey.
A Fort Worth attorney who is an expert in civil liberties law questioned whether such forceful conduct performed on random US citizens is constitutional. “You can’t just be pulled over randomly or for no reason,” said attorney Frank Colosi.
The Fort Worth attorney also mentioned there was a print out form passed to each pulled over driver informing the citizens, that their breath was tested by “passive alcohol sensor readings before the consent process has been completed.”
“They’re essentially lying to you when they say it’s completely voluntary, because they’re testing you at that moment,” Colosi said. The attorney also questioned the results of the “voluntary” survey – speculating that drivers who may be under the influence of alcohol or using drugs would be more inclined to simply decline to participate.