Only On 6: Omaha Checkpoints Questioned


Why were hundreds of drivers stopped at Omaha checkpoints over the weekend -- some of them drunk -- and no one arrested? It turns out -- the checkpoints key purpose was research into drunk driving.

The checkpoints were set up Friday and Saturday -- night and day -- at five locations in Omaha.

Drivers were selected at random -- and asked for saliva and blood -- and even offered money. No driver was required to take part.

The federal government was running the show -- trying to find out if the extra police enforcement and education over the years is keeping drunks from driving.

Omaha police were only assisting. The city was reimbursed for the expense of using on-duty traffic officers for the checkpoints.

"There's a cop in the middle of the street - waving random cars in," said Jen, a mother of three, who was in the car when her husband was stopped at a checkpoint at 96th and M Friday night.

She thought the checkpoint had unusual requests -- beyond asking for license and registration.

"He did not draw his blood because he felt it was very weird they were doing this -- very odd that cops were drawing blood and swabbing his cheeks just for a survey."

The drivers were handed an iPad to take a survey. For that, they were paid $10. They were also asked for saliva, blood - and to give a breathalyzer. It was all voluntary. If you agreed, the driver was paid another $50.

The survey is part of a decades-old program run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The five checkpoints were the same locations the NHTSA used in Omaha in the 80's and 90's. (96th & M, 132nd & Pacific, 72nd & Ames, 90th & Fort and 72nd & Pacific)

If you were drunk -- organizers would find a safe way for you to get home.

Education and enforcement seem to be working. Here's what the survey showed the last two times these checkpoints were held in Omaha at the same locations.

In the 80's -- one in 50 cars had someone legally intoxicated driving during the day. One in 10 drivers were drunk at night.

Ten years later - the same survey showed that had to one of every sixty cars driving drunk during the day and one in 12 drivers were drunk at night.

Saliva and blood were drawn so researchers could study the prevalence of drugs (illicit, prescription and over-the-counter) in drivers on our Nation's roads.

Omaha is one of 60 cities that are studied every ten years. The study here in Omaha wrapped up last weekend.

The study is the fifth in a nationwide series of roadside surveys since the 1970's.


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