National officials have collaborated with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to survey Washington state motorist, collect blood samples, and collect breath samples with the incentive of a $60 payment for participation.
The study will be conducted in several counties throughout the state of Washington in an effort to collect data from which to measure any “safety effects” of Washington’s legalization of marijuana, said commission spokeswoman Jonna VanDyk. The study began last Friday, continued over the weekend in Spokane and Yakima counties, and will be followed by other counties later in the month.
The federally funded project will be conducted by the government-hired contractor, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which caused controversy in other states with similar studies. Late last year, a similar study conducted in Pennsylvania by Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation led to a lawsuit alleging that police presence caused drivers to feel compelled to stop and participate in the study.
This time around, police will be off of the front line. Additionally, according to officials, the orange vest clad civilian crews will not block or slow traffic. Rather, they’ll be posted up at stoplights with signs saying “Paid Voluntary Survey.”
Any samples collected through the survey will be destroyed once the findings are published. According the VanDyk, the name and license numbers will not be recorded so that government agencies cannot archive or cross-check the information.
Although police will be present on the scene of the survey, according to VanDyk, they’re there to serve a secondary role in protecting the survey teams “which sometimes work at night or in tough neighborhoods.”
If participating drivers are deemed to be impaired, they’ll be “urged” to hand their keys off to a sober person, or accept a cab or motel room.
I find it highly unlikely that such a survey method would actually yield objective results. For sober drivers, it’s a quick and easy $60. But for those who are impaired, even slightly, or those who may not be impaired but have had a little to drink or smoke, $60 just isn’t worth the disclosure that they have ingested intoxicants to government-paid surveyors.