On Friday, citizens driving on a road in Fort Worth were directed to pull over by police and encouraged by federal contractors to give a breath, saliva, or blood sample to aid them in their driver-impairment study.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unleashed a team of researchers to offer up to $50 to get drivers to comply. The 30-city, nationwide $7.9 million study boasts that participation is 100% voluntary. Driver Kim Cope of Fort Worth, pulled over on her lunch break, begged to differ.
“It just doesn’t seem right that you can be forced off the road when you’re not doing anything wrong,” she protested. Cope continued, “I gestured to the guy in front that I just wanted to go straight, but he wouldn’t let me and forced me into a parking spot.” After parking her car, she was coerced to give at least one sample. Cope felt intimidated and offered to do a breath test just to get away. The contractor did not give her any money.
The Fort Worth Police department originally claimed they were not involved in conducting the survey but later claimed off-duty officers were called in to work in conjunction with the NHTSA. FWPD issued a statement, saying: “We apologize if any of our drivers and citizens were offended or inconvenienced by the NHTSA National Roadside Survey.” Asked if she accepted the FWPD’s apology, Cope retorted, “It just doesn’t seem right that they should be able to do any of it.” Cope added, “None of it felt voluntary.”
Fort Worth civil liberties law expert Attorney Frank Colosi maintains, “You can’t just be pulled over randomly for any reason.” Colosi points out an even more disturbing aspect to the survey. It turns out the drivers were already being tested by “passive alcohol sensors” whether they consented or not. He insists, “They’re essentially lying to you when they say it’s completely voluntary, because they’re testing you at that moment.”