How to get more survey responses: Pack heat

Since most people don’t want to be bothered with surveys, transportation researchers are always complaining about how tough it is to get good data. Lots of people have proposed lots of ways to get around this problemââ?¬â??from monitoring drivers with GPS devices to shoving travel surveys under the noses of those summoned to jury duty. Pennsylvania has discovered another way:

Over the next three months, Pennsylvania state troopers will be pulling over innocent motorists on interstate highways and secondary roads so the state’s department of transportation can conduct a random survey. The survey will take place in ten counties throughout the southwestern portion of the state, but PennDOT has declined to release specific times and locations because it believes motorists would attempt to avoid the stops. State police will set up checkpoints to block traffic so motorists can each be held for five minutes of questioning intended to gather data that will help to better distribute transportation funding throughout the region.

And the local ACLU guy just shrugs his shoulders:

The survey will be an inconvenience, but it’s legal, said Larry Frankel, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. “I’d be more irritated than anything else,” he said. “I don’t think it raises any constitutional issues.”

And unlike using night vision goggles to nab unbuckled motorists, this isn’t just some half-baked idea that will get reversed by public outrage before it really gets going. Similar surveys have already been conducted near Philly and in West Virginia and Texas. For more on check point fever, go here.