CROWN POINT | Northwest Indiana residents unexpectedly found themselves giving breath, saliva and blood samples as well as answers about their personal lives last weekend for a federal survey on impaired driving.
Off-duty police officers waved motorists off the road in Crown Point, Merrillville and other locations Friday and Saturday night and into parking lots where they went under the microscope for the 2013 National Roadside Survey on Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers.
"As a data-driven agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is constantly conducting research to ... better inform our efforts to reduce drunk and drugged driving," Kathryn Henry, of media relations for the agency, said Wednesday.
She said Lake County is one of more than 60 sites across the country where more than 8,000 drivers are being asked to give information and more for what she said is a voluntary and anonymous examination. Federal officials said cooperative drivers are paid, and no one found to be driving drunk is punished.
Drivers and passengers are queried about how much alcohol they regularly drink, whether drugs interfere with work or family life, arrest records, if they are undergoing court-ordered rehabilitation and if they have had more than four drinks in two hours.
A federal report on the last survey in 2007 indicates they test for the presence of alcohol, and legal and illegal drugs that impair driving such as cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, ecstasy, marijuana, barbiturates, pain killers, sleep aids, muscle relaxants, diet pills and anti-depressants.
The surveys, conducted about once a decade, indicate high blood alcohol levels have been declining in test subjects since 1973.
Officials state a small number of the drivers refuse to pull over or ask to pass through because they are in a hurry.
They said about half the drivers, who initially decline to take part, change their minds when they learn of the incentive-money offer, and a small number have even called family and friends to come to the site. Some sites have shut down to avoid too many such volunteers skewing the results.