The NHTSA recently released the findings of a roadside survey to test blood alcohol and drug levels. The survey data were collected in 2007 from roadside locations throughout the country. Drivers were selected at random and waved off the road to a survey location by police officers, but the drivers were approached by interviewers who were not police officers. The drivers were assured that the survey was voluntary and anonymous. Of the 11,000 randomly selected drivers, about 90 percent agreed to give breath samples and 70 percent agreed to give saliva samples. Data collectors and a phlebotomist (an individual trained to draw blood) conducted surveys between 10pm and midnight and between 1am and 3am on both Friday and Saturday nights, for one weekend in six selected States. The interviewers used extra incentives to encourage participation in the survey. For example, drivers were given $10 for saliva samples and $50 for blood samples. When a driver refused to take part in any of the testing, they were then offered $100.
The study found that the number of drivers found to be driving under the influence of alcohol appears to be declining, while many weekend drivers test positive for drug use. The roadside survey also used screening methods to detect marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs. The drug tests only indicated the presence of a drug in the body and didn’t indicate when the drugs were used or whether the driver was impaired. Here at the Brod Law Firm we are pleased to hear that the rate of alcohol impaired driving is down but discouraged learn that drug impaired driving is on the rise. This study sheds light on troubling issue in this country, an issue that needs to be addressed by society as a whole: prescription drug abuse. Research shows that prescription drug abuse is high mostly among young adults. This is a huge public health risk, considering young, first time, inexperienced drivers are getting high and then getting behind the wheel of a car. Just as aggressive public awareness campaigns have been built around the dangers of drunk driving, new campaigns, made up of health care workers, parents, and schools, should be built around this growing danger within our communities.