St. Clair Sheriff's Department: Roadside swabs and blood samples are part of a survey, nothing new
ST. CLAIR COUNTY — Deputies took part in a survey around the county over the weekend, on behalf of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

Lt. Freddie Turrentine, with the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, said the roadblocks were part of the 2013 National Roadside Survey.

“It’s been ongoing since 1970, every 5-10 years,” Turrentine said. “It is funded by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). They hire a company called Pacific Institute and Research Evaluations to do the survey.”

Turrentine said the same company commissioned the same survey in St. Clair County in 2007.

The following is from the NHTSA website:

“The 2007 National Roadside Survey (NRS) is a national field survey of alcohol and drug-involved driving conducted primarily among nighttime weekend drivers, but also daytime Friday drivers. The survey involved randomly stopping drivers at 300 locations across the continental United States; sites were selected through a stratified random sampling procedure.”

Turrentine said checkpoints were set up throughout St. Clair County over the weekend — last Friday, June 7, during the daytime at the New London Fire Department for three hours; Friday night on Ala. 34, south of Pell City near the Talladega County line at Cedar Drive from 10 p.m.-midnight; Saturday morning, June 8, from 1 a.m.-3 a.m. near the intersection of U.S 231 and Ala. 144 near what used to be Paul Manning’s BBQ in Wattsville; and Saturday night at White’s Chapel Parkway and the Moody Crossroads.

“This (survey) was not mandatory,” Turrentine said. “If drivers agreed to give a mouth swab or blood sample, they were paid up to $60. They didn’t want their name or any identification from them. They didn’t have to fill out any form. Just talk.”

Turrentine said he really does not know any specific questions motorists answered, because he didn’t walk near the cars.

“If people pulled up to me and said they didn’t want to fool with it, they kept driving down the highway,” Turrentine said. “We didn’t force them to do it, and we were not there to intimidate them. It was strictly voluntary.”

Turrentine said when deputies in St. Clair County conducted the survey in 2007, “there was not one hiccup.”

“We never heard one word or one complaint from anyone,” Turrentine said. “This time I have received telephone calls from Tennessee to Texas to Georgia from people wanting to know what’s going on. I’ve had all the news stations and radio stations wanting to know what’s going on.

It’s all about highway safety, and trying to make it better,” Turrentine added. “They were not collecting DNA, because there were no names and no attachments. They are simply looking for alcohol or drugs that could be in a driver’s system. Their goal is to get 750 participants from 60 different sites across the country from June to October.”

Turrentine said they are not doing anything now that they didn’t do the last time.

“We’re just trying to help them collect data so they can better understand what’s going on,” Turrentine said. “

According to Turrentine, the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office also participated in the survey.

“St. Clair and Bibb are the only two counties in the state that participated in this survey that I know about,” Turrentine said. “They very well may want to come back again in 5-10 years. I just don’t know.”

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© 2013