A company that is developing an instant test that will be used to identify drugged drivers has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant to aid with development of the test.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the grant worth $150,000 to Diagnostic anSERS to help the company progress its development of a paper-based test strip to enable instant roadside screening for driver drug impairment.
Currently, Diagnostic anSERS’s makes ink-jet printed sensors (called P-SERS™) that are able to detect traces of a wide variety of chemicals, including narcotics, pesticides, and explosives. This Phase I SBIR will help the company to develop modified P-SERS™ sensors that will be able to detect traces of drugs in saliva.
This new saliva test will allow a police officer to more accurately determine if a driver is currently under the influence of an illegal drug, as opposed to existing urine and hair tests which only identify prior drug usage.
The need to identify if drivers are under the influence of drugs is particularly pressing, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey found that 13.6% of weekend nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal drugs, as compared to only 1.5% being drunk.
At present, no effective roadside drug intoxication test exists. To help combat drugged driving, most states currently employ Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) to identify a variety of signs indicative of drug use, such as coordination and pupil size. However, use of DREs is expensive and time consuming.
“We have interviewed numerous law enforcement officials about their needs, and this was, by far, the biggest and most urgent one,” Sean Virgile, co-founder of Diagnostic anSERS said in a news release. “Right now, officers have to either rely on highly trained, highly paid Drug Recognition Experts or let the suspect go. There is no existing cost-effective solution.”
With the grant, Diagnostic anSERS hopes to cut down on the amount of drivers under the influence of drugs, a problem that is expected to grow with the societal shift toward decriminalization of marijuana.