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A new device identifies impaired driving caused by drug use

While law enforcement has many tools to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol, testing for drugs presents challenges and complexities. However, those difficulties are now a thing of the past as a new device is able to identify impaired driving caused by narcotics.

Thanks to the Dräger DrugTest 5000, introduced in more than a dozen states, police now can confirm the presence of marijuana and other drugs in impaired drivers.

The mouth-swab device is the size of a mini bookshelf stereo system and tests for the presence of seven drugs that include:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Methamphetamine
  • Amphetamine
  • Methadone
  • Benzodiazepines

Officers trained to recognize signs of drug impairment will look at various indicators, including unsafe driving maneuvers, bloodshot eyes, blank stares and the odor of drugs, particularly marijuana. If they have reasonable suspicion, they can request a sobriety or Dräger 5000 test.

If a driver submits to the Dräger 5000 test, the officer will instruct them to run a swab around the inside of their mouth for up to four minutes. Once the swab is placed in the machine with a vial of testing solution, the process takes six to eight minutes for results to print out.

As with other handheld preliminary alcohol screening devices, drivers do not have to submit to a mouth-swab. Should they refuse, officers can force a blood test.

Because the device cannot determine levels of intoxication, a positive result will likely send the driver to blood testing for a determination on the precise drug levels. However, if the officer still suspects impairment, they may mandate a blood draw due to the limitations of the drugs the Dräger 5000 can measure.

As with any cutting-edge method or device that determines impairment, nothing is foolproof. An arrest for DUI, whether it involves alcohol or drugs, does not mean a conviction is automatic.

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