The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, along with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation and local law enforcement officials in St. Clair and Bibb Counties, recently held a series of “DUI checkpoints,” the purpose of which was to determine approximately how many people were driving under the influence.
However, our Birmingham DUI lawyers understand those who were drunk weren’t arrested. They didn’t have to provide their names or addresses. They were free to go if they didn’t want to be there. All researchers were asking was for a voluntary sample of blood and/or breath. Participants who agreed were even paid for it.
The research took place from late one Friday evening through Saturday morning. Off-duty deputies in the two counties were stationed at various locations across the county. Drivers were informed that their participation wasn’t mandatory. They were then asked to undergo a breathalyzer test, provide a throat swab and offer a blood sample. Throat swabs were reimbursed with $10 and blood samples were reimbursed for $50.
The results will reportedly be published as part of the 2013 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drugged Driving. Similar studies were conducted as far back as 1973, and again in 1986, 1996 and 2007, with Alabama municipalities participating in the 2007 research as well.
The researchers said the decision to work with law enforcement was for purposes of safety and convenience. Participants’ consent was verbal and they were not asked to sign anything or to provide any identifying information.
The surveys were conducted from 10 p.m. to midnight and also from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., because previous research reveals this is the highest risk time for those who are believed to be operating a vehicle under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.
When the research first began in the 1970s, it was based solely on breathalyzer tests. Since then, the tests have evolved into collection of blood and saliva samples, which researchers say will help them to distinguish between illegal narcotics and over-the-counter medications, as well as determine the approximate dosage of each.
Alabama isn’t the only test site. There are approximately 60 of them taking place throughout the country.
Among the findings in the 2007 survey:
–The percentage of night time drivers who had blood-alcohol levels of 0.08 percent or higher dropped steady from 7.5 percent in 1973 down to 2.2 percent in 2007.
–The percentage of male drivers who were deemed over the legal limit for alcohol consumption was 42 percent higher than for female drivers.
–More night-time drivers than day-time drivers were under the influence of narcotics (14.4 percent, compared to 11 percent).
Because there were not blood and saliva samples taken prior to the 2007 survey, these latest results will be able to tell us whether drugged driving has increased or decreased in recent years.
Interestingly, researchers noted that because of factors such as individual metabolism and absorption, large numbers of different kinds of drugs that lack extensive research on intoxication and an individual’s varying tolerance levels, “specific drug concentration levels can not be reliably equated with effects on driver performance.”