Law enforcement in Indiana will use a new roadside system to identify people driving under the influence of alcohol and, for the first time, drugs.
The SoToxa Mobile Test System is a rapid drug screen, as described by Abbott Laboratories, a producer of medical devices and health care company. The test results appear in five minutes after inserting a sample of saliva and the device itself is “lightweight, compact and easy to use.”
According to a press release, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) distributed up to 66 of these devices across the state. The devices are reusable and cost $4,500 each. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) covered the costs through federal funding.
A total of 52 Indiana law enforcement agencies will begin to use this new device to detect drug-impaired drivers faster and more accurately.
The SoToxa Mobile Test System can recognize up to six kinds of drugs, including amphetamine, benzodiazepines, cannabis (THC), cocaine, methamphetamine and opiates.
ICJI completed a research and cross-checked with areas where they saw higher drug-impaired driving crashes. Then they chose the agencies that needed the device the most.
“For decades, officers have been using handheld devices such as portable breathalyzers in the field, but this is the first time they’ll be able to test for the presence of drugs,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI executive director.
Sgt. John Kreiger from the Fort Wayne Police Department, said he has used the device in the field and attested that the SoToxa Mobile Test System had worked great for them.
The test uses a cotton swab inside the mouth to obtain a sample of saliva that is then inserted into the device. According to Abbott, the SoToxa Test can store up to 10,000 results. This drug screen makes the exam simpler than collecting blood or urine and can be used at the moment by the roadside.
Rob Duckworth, ICJI traffic safety director, said Indiana and Michigan will be among the first states in the country to begin the use of the SoToxa Mobile Test.
McDonald said that Indiana was going through an “alarming trend” of drug-impaired driving and Indiana needed a better way to recognize these drivers —“to put a new strategy, a new tool out there to equip our law enforcement to help keep these dangerous drivers off the road,” McDonald said.
According to the Indiana Highway Safety Plan, there was a 13.4% decrease in fatalities of drivers across the state with a BAC of above the legal limit of intoxication, between 2017 and 2018. And statistics from the Indiana Traffic Safety Facts shows a drop of alchool-impaired fatalities between 2014 and 2018, from 14.5% to 9.5%.
The company’s device was chosen based on reliability and accuracy.
The test may be refused by the driver, and the device’s results are not approved by the courts to be used as evidence of the driver being impaired. The officer must have a reason to use the device and use it as a basis to make an arrest.
Carolina Puga Mendoza is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.