Friday 23 February 2018

Hi-tech drug tests for motorists on the way but €20 cost may hinder plan

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

NEW tests to check if drivers have taken illegal drugs will cost up to €20 each -- more than 100 times the cost of an alcohol breath test.

The Government plans to introduce the tests within three years, but the cost may prove prohibitive.

Gardai will begin carrying out roadside impairment tests next summer to determine if drivers are under the influence of drugs.

Some 3,000 gardai have been trained to perform the tests, which include examining the driver's eyes, especially the size of the pupils; asking the motorist to stand with their eyes closed to see if they start swaying; and asking the suspect to touch their nose with a finger, with eyes open and then eyes closed.

However, it is also planned to introduce testing machines which can be used to get a more accurate assessment.

These tests involve taking a swab of saliva from a motorist, which is analysed by a hand-held device operated by gardai.

The machine will indicate if any of seven different drugs, including cannabis and cocaine, have been ingested. The driver will then be obliged to provide a blood or urine sample to confirm the results.

The tests are expensive because they check saliva for seven different drugs. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), which analyses blood and urine samples for drugs and alcohol on behalf of gardai, says each test could cost up to €20.

This compares with the 18 cent it costs to conduct an alcohol test using a breathalyser, which only involves the use of a disposable tube used to blow into a hand-held machine.

Irish Independent

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