Researchers at the nonprofit organization Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation were actively looking for volunteers to donate saliva and blood samples driving in St. Clair and Bibb counties this past weekend to participate in a study on drunk driving. The institute even erected large signs to place on the side of roads in the two counties, hoping that they could lure in drivers who might be interested in participating in the “paid volunteer survey.”
Drivers who provided a saliva sample would receive $10 in compensation, while those who donated their blood would receive $50. Off-duty police officers collected the samples anoyomously, thus no one could be pegged for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs by volunteering in the paid study.
“It was completely voluntary,” Lt. Freddie Turrentine of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department told AL.com. “If they didn’t want to take part, they could drive off.”
The study was actually paid for by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, who eagerly wanted drivers to volunteer for the study. While five roadblocks were set up in each of the two counties, the NHTSA hopes to set up 60 more throughout the country between now and October.
“They were taking the samples in other parts of the country. They want to find out of all the people surveyed, how many people were driving with alcohol in their system, or prescription drugs, things like that,” Turrentine also told AL.com.
PIRE conducted a similar survey in 2007, also funded by NHTSA, which surveyed drivers on late weekend hours. The 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use By Drivers found that there was a dramatic decline in drivers with a blood-alcohol level at or above the legal limit. It also found that that the most common drugs found in nighttime drivers were marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.