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But critics of the National Roadside Survey say a study doesn't carry the same weight as a checkpoint.
"It certainly isn't an immediate public safety measure," Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said via email. "So, even though a sobriety checkpoint may be more intrusive in that you can't say no and drive away, this is illegal, we think, because there's no sufficient reason for making people pull over and talk to government officials in the first place.
"And I am just talking about the stop itself," she said. "This doesn't even take into consideration some of the coercive strategies people have alleged are part of this program."
The 2007 methodology shows how the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation relied on its survey-takers to persuade reluctant motorists to take part. The company offered bonuses to interviewers who were most successful at getting motorists' compliance and replaced those who didn't get enough motorists to say yes.
A company spokeswoman referred questions to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which said the 2013-14 survey is being conducted in the same manner as the 2007 version.
The $7.9 million survey is now nearing completion. But Nieves, 48, an Army veteran and chaplain for an American Legion post, said an important principle is at stake.
"The Fourth Amendment clearly states that I'm allowed to go about my business without government intrusion, that I'm allowed to go about freely where I need to go," he said. "And on that day, no one here, in my city government or that police department, was protecting me."
Nieves's attorney, Aaron Martin, said his client thought he'd be arrested if he didn't pull over "because it appeared it was a traffic stop by police. In fact, it was, by all appearances."
Last week, PIRE asked a judge to throw out Nieves' lawsuit, pointing out the civilian survey-taker immediately told Nieves he was not in trouble and that his participation was voluntary.
Nieves "was in no way compelled to stop, and, indeed, hundreds of other vehicles completely ignored the civilian data collector and continued on their merry way," the company's lawyer wrote.
The city of Reading likewise said that Nieves "suffered no injury or damages." City officials declined to comment to The Associated Press, citing the pending lawsuit, but promised they won't participate in future surveys, according to a legal memo filed by PIRE's attorney.
While some motorists view the survey as problematic, others have no problem.
"I hate to say it, but it was an easy $65," said Mary Marchione, 44, of Virginia Beach, Va., who provided saliva and blood samples and completed the written survey. "I felt like it was voluntary right from the get-go. ... They just really want to know who's driving with what in their system."
In the Boston suburb of Hingham, Mass., police Sgt. Steven Dearth said the survey went smoothly, with no complaints and a line of motorists waiting to provide blood samples.
"If offered the opportunity, we would do it again," he said. "The data will obviously be beneficial to the cause."