Voluntary roadside survey in Yakima tests drivers for drugs and alcohol

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Dozens of local drivers got tested for drugs and alcohol Friday - and it was their choice. It's part of a statewide effort to learn how many drivers are impaired and how legal marijuana could impact those numbers. KIMA volunteered for the survey as well.

"Have you had anything to drink today?"

That was among several questions researchers asked drivers in West Valley. The drivers volunteered for a roadside survey on impaired driving.

It was anonymous. In fact, KIMA couldn't record them. So, we volunteered to see how it works.

"About how old were you when you first started drinking?"

The researcher asked about drinking habits: how many drinks consumed in a week, a year and so on.

Researchers stood near Nob Hill Boulevard and 72nd Avenue offering drivers $10 for a breathalyzer test and $50 for a blood sample.

"We have had a great response," said Shelly Baldwin, program manager for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. "We had seven bays open. Drivers were happy to participate."

Drivers answered questions and provided samples in the parking lot of the West Valley Church of the Nazarene.

This statewide effort tries to count the number of impaired drivers in Washington. The results will also give researchers a benchmark to compare with later surveys after pot shops open for business this summer.

"The data that we're going to gather from the survey is going to be invaluable to us as we try to make public policy decisions around impaired driving," said Baldwin.

We took the breathalyzer test, were tested for drugs and got a warning from the tester.

"If you are unable to drive home safely, we will provide you with free transportation."

Drivers who are impaired get help going home, or to a hotel room to dry out.

"Go ahead and make a fist."

Then came the blood sample, before heading back to the car, no worse for the wear, one of 900 samples the state expects to collect.

There will be more surveys throughout the weekend around Yakima and Spokane Counties. Surveys in other counties will be done later this month.