Roadside drug testing kits may not work in cold weather

IRL/GB

Roadside drug testing kits may not work in cold weather

The new roadside drug testing kits which have been given to the Gardaí have may not work i cold weather.

The Medical Bureau of Road Safety has advised the Garda traffic corps on “proper operating conditions for the analysers” and informed them that the device is not guaranteed to work when below 5C.

The machines are designed to detect the presence of illicit drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin in drivers by using saliva samples from the driver.

“At temperatures lower than 5C the analyser is capable of operating as it has the capacity to provide heat internally,” the bureau said.

“Where the analyser cannot achieve 5C, a ‘low temperature message’ will be displayed and it will not be possible to do a test.”

The Gardaí have received eighty-six of the drugs testing devices known as the Drager DrugTest 5000 in their stations.This drug-screening device is considered the best on the market at this time.

Another 50 devices are being used by patrolling Gardaí for roadside tests, with the number of these mobile kits to rise to 150.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) initially was not aware of the temperature limitations of the device which is used by many international police forces.

The DrugTest 5000 is widely used in Australia, Spain, Italy, England and Wales, and in Norway, where officers claim that in practice it can be used for a very brief time outside in freezing temperatures once they stand beside a patrol car with the boot or doors open while analysing a sample.

The Medical Bureau of Road Safety has said to Garda trainers that the disposable tester should be discarded if its packaging is not intact or if desiccant is not present.

Independent TD Tommy Broughan, who has campaigned on road safety issues, said: “It would stop gardai having a comprehensive checking regime.

“It’s something that wouldn’t have occurred to me and it’s something of a serious concern.

“Clearly with our climate it could introduce a restriction.”

Independent TD Clare Daly said it is “almost unbelievable” that any questions would emerge over new roadside testing kits while the Garda is facing questions over bogus drink-driving test records.

She said: “Who would decide to purchase equipment which cannot be relied upon for accuracy in temperatures below 5C?

“Accuracy of results is critical when we are dealing with serious allegations which result in penalties and higher premiums for motorists.”

When the device does give an accurate reading on the initial test, it still cannot be used in evidence in court.

Under the Road Traffic Act 2016, any driver stopped and asked for a sample at the roadside or at a checkpoint or following an accident could face the threat of a €5,000 fine or six months in prison for refusing to co-operate.

The results are most likely be used to determine whether a driver is arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and taken to a Garda station to give a blood or urine sample.

The Drager DrugTest 5000 device including the carrier case costs €615 and each disposable tester costs about €15.

The analysers can also identify the presence of several prescription drugs, causing concern for people on prescribed and heavy painkiller medication.

IRL/GB


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