Government-hired survey teams will ask hundreds of Washington state motorists to answer questions and provide samples of breath, saliva and blood — all to give safety and police agencies a clearer sense of how many people drive impaired, reports the Seattle Times. The roadside surveys are voluntary, and participants will be paid up to $60, under the federally funded project this summer. National officials are collaborating with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, which is hurrying to gather data before retail marijuana gains a foothold. That way, officials have a baseline from which to measure any safety effects of legalization, said commission spokeswoman Jonna VanDyk.
Crews will not block or slow traffic. Drivers at a stoplight would encounter civilians wearing orange vests, with signs saying “Paid Voluntary Survey,” then be asked if they wish to participate. Other National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studies have caused controversy, including a lawsuit in Pennsylvania, where drivers said they felt compelled by police to stop and participate. The NHTSA program in Washington state will be run by the same contractors, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, but has been designed with extra safeguards, such as keeping police off the front line. Last fall, Ft. Worth, Tx., police, apologized and removed themselves from a NHTSA roadside study after people said a police presence made them feel compelled to participate.