Consider what happened recently in Central Alabama. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a branch of the federal government's Dept. of Transportation, wanted to do some research to find out how many motorists are driving on public roads when they have alcohol in their system. Or illegal drugs. Or even legal prescription drugs.
Local deputies were deployed to set up roadblocks.
And then whoever was taking the information asked for a breath sample, an oral fluid sample and a blood sample. In Alabama, those motorists who agreed to give samples were paid $50 for blood samples and $10 for mouth swabs.
NHTSA spokesman Jose Ucles said Participation was "voluntary," and all data remains "anonymous." Harmless? Or is it more government intrusion at a time when, clearly, the federal government has given us great reason to worry about personal privacy.
The highly unusual traffic stop occurred in Bibb and St. Clair counties in the center of the state. Apparently, media was notified only after it concluded... Unlike routine stops for drunk drivers when the state tells you when they're planning to stop vehicles, and sometimes they even tell you where.
According to Ucles, the Office of Drug Control Policy is contributing funding and support for the study, which is going on in 60 sites around the nation. The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation is conducting the tests through this fall. St. Clair and Bibb county officials said this would be the only time the road blocks are conducted this year.
St. Clair County authorities said they were attached to the survey through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Jim Plott with the department said ADECA only provided contacts to the NHTSA, but "had no involvement in the study and no ADECA funding was used." (So it sounds like state officials want to distance themselves as far as possible from this event. Maybe they should tell the public what made the feds select two Alabama counties too?)
The samples, Ucles said, were used to measure whether drivers had the presence of over-the-counter, prescription and illegal drugs in their systems, or alcohol and the driver's individual blood alcohol concentration.
Ucles said there were four previous national roadside surveys conducted in 1973, 1986, 1996 and 2007, but this is only the second time a survey has obtained data on drug use by drivers.
Maybe there's no reason to be alarmed. But then again, maybe there's cause for concern if entities like the IRS admit that the government is 'targeting' certain individuals. Maybe there's cause for concern if individuals who are not suspected of committing any crimes, have their phones tapped; their computers hacked, and their emails read.
Frankly, I think NHTSA's stated goal is a good one because it is important to know how many people are driving under the influence of medications, legal and otherwise... But at the same time, isn't transparency supposed to be paramount?
If it's all voluntary and the researchers intentions are pure, don't withhold information about it. If history teaches us anything it's that the cover-up is often much worse than the initial offense. And with the current state of affairs we see that history does indeed repeat itself... and it's happening far too often.