Saskatoon police have new tool to catch high drivers
The Dräger Drugtest 5000 has come to Saskatoon.
It’s a roadside saliva test meant to help detect cannabis or cocaine use during roadside stops.
“This instrument is not the evidence that will convict someone or acquit them. It’s only to let officers know if they need to go further in their investigation,” Staff Sgt. Patrick Barbar said.
The Saskatoon Police Service is now equipped with the machine and will start using it in roughly two to four weeks.
The person being tested inserts the mouthpiece and swabs it side-to-side. Once there’s enough saliva collected, the top of the white strip will turn blue.
The officer will then insert the mouthpiece into the Dräger. The person’s name, the date, and a reference number are inputted into the device.
After roughly four minutes, the device prints whether the results are positive or negative for both THC and cocaine.
The instrument isn’t without its critics.
The Dräger is temperature sensitive and is meant to be used in climate that ranges from 4 C to 40 C.
With Saskatchewan winters dipping well below freezing, some question if the device will work here.
In freezing temperatures, police say the device can be used inside a vehicle. It also has internal cooling and heating, according to Staff Sgt. Barbar.
Another concern is the possibility of the machine producing inaccurate results.
“There is a high rate of false positives,” said Scott Thompson, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Saskatchewan.
Researchers in Norway compared the oral swab to a blood sample and found the device sometimes produced false positives and false negatives.
“There’s no accurate data for how long THC stays in your body,” Thompson said.
City police say they are confident in the device because the federal government has approved it.
The federal government is footing the bill for these, with each machine costing roughly $6,000. The price tag to equip and train all provinces and territories with the machine is $81 million.
Throughout the year, 15 Dräger devices will be rolled out across the province, said Jennifer Graham, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Corrections and Policing.
Six devices will be dispersed among Saskatoon, Regina, Weyburn, Prince Albert, Moose Jaw and Estevan; the remaining nine will go towards RCMP across the province, according to Ministry.
“Impaired driving is still the leading cause of death on Saskatchewan roads and that’s just unacceptable for something that’s 100 per cent preventable,” said Tyler McMurchy, SGI's Manager of Media Relations.
“It’s never been a worse time to be an impaired driver,” he said.