According to the CDC, drugs other than alcohol are involved in approximately 18% of all fatal vehicle crashes each year. Despite this, there is still no portable test available to police to detect drugs in a person’s system. Recently, Swedish researchers developed a breath test that they say can detect 12 different drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, morphine, and marijuana.
In their study, 47 patients at a drug addiction emergency clinic were tested with the portable breath test. All of the patients took drugs within the past 24 hours, and the test correctly detected the drugs in 87% of cases, which is about as accurate as blood and urine tests.
If this technology makes its way onto America’s roadways, the test would likely be administered the same way portable breath tests are currently used: A driver suspected of being impaired by drugs will be asked to submit to a portable test, and a result over a certain threshold will give the police officer probable cause to arrest the driver and take him to the station or hospital for an official blood or urine test. In the near future, testing breath for drugs could be as common as urine, blood, saliva, sweat, or hair testing.