Breath analysis, also known as the breathalyzer test, is a process used to determine the amount of alcohol in a person’s body. Police officers use breathalyzers at the scene of a traffic stop to test whether or not a person has been driving under the influence. In the past, alcohol was the only thing that breathalyzers tested for, but now, thanks to technology created by Swedish researchers, that might be about to change.
New Test Can Detect Many Different Substances
It’s usually pretty easy for police officers to spot someone who is driving under the influence. The suspect may be driving too fast or too slow, swerving in and out of lanes, forgetting to signal or riding the bumper of the car in front of them. Police officers are trained to look for these signs and pull these people over, but before the breathalyzer test, they didn’t have a surefire way of proving that the person was intoxicated.
For many years now, the breathalyzer test has been able to show whether or not a person has alcohol in their system, but it didn’t do anything to test for other substances that could possibly interfere with a person’s ability to drive properly, such as cocaine or heroin. The Swedish test, known as the SensAbues system, is said to be able to detect many different controlled substances, including heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.
Studies Show the Breathalyzer is Somewhat Accurate
A team of researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden tested the new SensAbues breathalyzer using a group of 46 people from an emergency drug addiction clinic, all of whom had admitted to taking drugs at least 24 hours before the study was conducted. The participants were asked to exhale into the breathalyzer for a few minutes at as time, allowing the tiny particles within their lungs to be released into the device and provide a reading.
These results were then compared to blood and urine samples given by the patients, and it was found that the breathalyzer was around 87 percent accurate in determining what drugs were present in the body. This level of accuracy is obviously far from perfect, but it is higher than previous studies on earlier versions of the breathalyzer.
Roadside Testing is Still a Thing of the Future
Current breathalyzer tests are considered to be accurate by most courts, but there have been plenty of cases that were thrown out due to the fact that readings can sometimes vary by as much as 15 percent. According to the website of a an attorney who has had great success in getting his client’s penalties for DWI in NJ dismissed or reduced due to false or inaccurate breathalyzer tests, “Despite the courts’ certification of and reliance on the machine testing, there are several defenses that can be used to fight the results obtained in breath testing cases.”
Similar arguments can and will be made against a drug breathalyzer that isn’t 100 percent accurate, meaning that the SensAbues system will need to be refined quite a bit before it can go into widespread legal use. As of now, the system would require that officials collect a sample on the scene and send it to a lab for analysis, but researchers are hopeful that in the future, it will prove to be a valuable tool for roadside breath analysis.
The SensAbues system is already available for commercial use, and will likely find its way into the hands of United States police officers within the next few years. This is great for those who want to keep the roads a safer place, but not so great for those who choose to drive under the influence.