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Concerns raised over 'optional' status of impaired driving survey

Imagine for a moment that you are driving down the road, and you suddenly see some flashing lights and orange cones up ahead. You assume there's some sort of accident that is being addressed -- but no, it's actually a DWI checkpoint. "That's weird," you think to yourself. There was no mention of a checkpoint in the paper or online, and you never heard about it from other people or law enforcement officials.

Whether you are intoxicated or not in this hypothetical situation is irrelevant, because such a DWI checkpoint would be a legal nightmare for the police department in question if they truly did not announce to the community that a DWI checkpoint was being performed. They are required to do so -- otherwise, any results they garner from that checkpoint could be inadmissible.

We bring this up because a related conundrum has come to fruition with the National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drugged Driving, a measure for rating the prominence of impaired driving in the U.S. It has only been done five times since 1973, so it's not a frequent problem. But this year, the question of whether this survey really is "optional" -- as it claims to be -- or not has been raised.

Many people who have dealt with the "random" selection process for the survey describe being directed into a parking lot by a person who blocks their way. Then they are instructed to park, where they may be subject to the survey. That hardly sounds optional, and many people are complaining -- and even filing lawsuits -- as a result of the way officials are handling the survey.

Source: Associated Press, "Roadside survey of impaired driving causes outcry," Michael Rubinkam, Feb. 20, 2014

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