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At the minute, breathalizers are only able to detect the presence of alcohol. However, scientists are now developing far more high-tech models that could detect a lot more. Indeed, researchers in Sweden have developed a device that is able to detect 12 different substances. The list of substances that it is able to detect include marijuana, morphine, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. These are some of the drugs most commonly used in mainstream society, and therefore the most likely to be present on someone’s breath.
Most states have laws covering driving under the influence of drugs. However, it is impossible to detect whether or not drugs are present on the roadside. Hence, they need to actually take people in to the station to do a urine or blood test. It is not possible to charge an alleged offender without this test. However, with the new Swedish device, drugs could potentially be detected at the roadside. The device has been tested and was able to detect the presence of drugs in people up to 24 hours after taking them. Although still in developmental stages, it has been accurate in 87% of all cases. Although this may sound insufficient, it is actually the same rate as a blood or urine test. However, it is likely that defense lawyers will request a blood or urine test to confirm the results if someone is charged.
When looking at lethal car accidents, the CDC has determined that some 18% of those involve driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol. Additionally, driving under the influence of alcohol is responsible for around a third of all traffic fatalities. Each year, 1.4 million people are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. It is for this reason that breathalizers will need to continue to detect alcohol as well. However, if they detect drugs as well, then this would be a very positive development. Additionally, it has the potential to reduce other forms of crime as well. Because it is far more likely that they will get caught, users may be less inclined to engage in car theft. Currently, they will try to stall police officers after their arrest, so that by the time they do their blood or urine test, the levels of drugs will have reduced significantly. It takes only 24 hours for most drugs to be undetectable by blood or urine tests, unless the drugs test checks the full DNA. This could make it possible for people to claim they were no longer feeling the effects of the drug they were using.