MADISON COUNTY, Ill. (KMOV.com) -- A simple swish around the mouth and a five minute high-tech test could provide law enforcement answers on whether a person is driving under the influence of drugs.
“It’s almost like they’re blind now when they walk up to a car,” explained Fred Delfino, the senior law enforcement liaison with Abbott, the company who created SoToxa.
SoToxa is a mobile testing device which can detect the presence of six drugs through oral fluid.
“It’s basically lab quality results in the palm of their hand in five minutes,” said Defino.
The tool is used in a few states, including Michigan, and by a police department outside of Chicago, but it is relatively new technology. But it’s something law enforcement in the Metro East are interested in.
Madison and St. Clair County Sheriff’s Departments said they have not seen an increase in impaired driving since recreational marijuana became legal on January 1, but their eyes are always on the roads for drivers under the influence.
Right now departments rely on field sobriety tests and blood draws. SoToxa would not replace roadside sobriety tests but would be another tool in their tool belt.
“We have a tool for breath alcohol tests, it’s been used, it’s been proven, Soxtoxa is a tool that can be used for drug testing on the roadways,” said Delfino.
It tests for methamphetamine, amphetamine, benzos, cocaine, morphine and marijuana. But it won’t tell an officer how high a driver is, only that the drug is present.
“Our marijuana is at 25 nano-grams so that’s the level of threshold. There or above will test as a positive result, lower than that it will come back as a negative result,” he explained.
But there are some concerns, including the fact that there is no scientific measurement for determining how high someone is, similar to a blood alcohol content level. There are also questions in regard to how it can be used as evidence. Missouri and Illinois both have laws allowing saliva samples.
Investigators in St. Clair and Madison County said cost is another factor. Representatives at Abbott wouldn’t say how much SoToxa costs except to say it varies depending on how many a department uses.
But at the end of the day police are looking for ways to prevent drugged drivers from hitting the road.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2018, 20.5 million people aged 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year, and 12.6 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs.
After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often found in the blood of drivers involved in crashes.