Motorists driving drunk or drugged caught a break last weekend when they were pulled over at checkpoints manned by Omaha police officers and federal employees.
The impaired drivers were given rides home and not arrested.
That's because the five checkpoints were part of the 2013 National Roadside Survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The survey attempted to estimate the prevalence of alcohol and drugs among motorists.
Lt. Darci Tierney, an Omaha police spokeswoman, said drunken drivers weren't arrested “because we didn't have probable cause for the stop.”
Instead, employees of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which conducted the survey, provided rides home.
According to the project's methodology, any driver suspected of impairment who did not want to participate in the survey was subjected to a safety protocol to dissuade them from continuing to drive on that trip.
“The city was 100 percent reimbursed for the wages and benefits of the on-duty officers that worked the assignment,” Tierney said. “The program was completely voluntary for everyone getting pulled over.”
Checkpoints on Friday were set up at various times at 132nd and Pacific Streets; 72nd Street and Ames Avenue; and 96th and M Streets. Checkpoints on Saturday were at 90th and Fort Streets and 72nd and Pacific Streets.
Drivers were given $10 to complete a survey about their use of alcohol and drugs. Drivers earned another $50 if they agreed to take a breathalyzer test, have blood drawn and provide samples of saliva.
According to information released by the NHTSA, the goal was to have 125 Omaha-area drivers participate.
Lt. Jay Leavitt of the Omaha Police Department's traffic office said he did not have any information about how many impaired drivers were given rides home. Leavitt said two officers worked each checkpoint.
Omaha was one of 60 sites in 32 states selected for the survey, which was expected to have 7,500 participants. The survey also was conducted in 1973, 1986, 1996 and 2007.
This year's survey was only the second time data on drug incidence was collected. Results of the 2007 survey can be found at www.nhtsa.gov.