Can new device detect drug-impaired drivers?

| Mar 1, 2021 | DWI |

When police pull a driver over under suspicion of drunk driving, the driver can expect certain procedures to take place. Among them is a blood or breath test to measure the level of alcohol in the driver’s system. While not always accurate, the results from devices that test a driver’s blood alcohol content carry enough validity that they are admissible as evidence in many cases. Is it possible that the latest technology for detecting the presence of drugs in a driver’s system will eventually obtain this respect? 

Minnesota police may soon be carrying a portable device called So Toxa Mobile Test System, which supposedly detects the presence of certain illegal substances within five minutes. Only a few states are currently using the device, but since it is only a year old, it is possible more and more police agencies will add it to their tool boxes. Officers simply take a swab from the driver’s saliva, and the handheld machine gives a positive or negative result for any of the following drugs: 

  • Marijuana 
  • Amphetamines 
  • Methamphetamines 
  • Cocaine 
  • Opiates 
  • Benzodiazepines 

While some may see this new device as a step forward in keeping the streets safe from impaired drivers, others worry that the test is not sophisticated enough to indicate how much of the drug is in a driver’s system. The device is set to detect the presence of drugs at 25 nanograms or higher, giving only a positive or negative result. Therefore, police will still have to rely on their own training, experience and subjective opinion to determine whether a driver is actually impaired. 

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