Roadside Oral Fluid Testing FAQ

Congratulations to Governor Malloy!
September 18, 2016
New information about roadside oral fluid testing for DUID
September 18, 2016

Roadside Oral Fluid Testing FAQ

1. Where are roadside oral fluid (OF) tests currently being used?

Roadside oral fluid testing has been used in Germany, Belgium and other countries since completing an exhaustive evaluation in 2009. It is also currently being evaluated within this country in several states, including California, Vermont, Arizona, Tennessee, and others.

2. How long does a roadside saliva test take?

A roadside saliva screening test takes around five minutes. When a positive result is obtained, the driver is then required to undertake a secondary saliva test, or provide a blood sample, to confirm the presence of the prescribed drug. In most cases, this confirmatory saliva test takes about the same amount of time. After, it is then sent to a lab for further analysis.

3. What if a driver is unable to provide a saliva sample?

A driver who is unable to supply the required saliva due to a medical or physical condition may instead supply a blood or urine sample. Blood samples may only be conducted by qualified and approved professionals.

4. What types of drugs do OF devices detect?

It depends upon the device. For Example:

(Alere) The DDS2 6-Panel detects: Cannabis, Amphetamines, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Benzodiazepine, and Opiates

(Draeger Device) The DDS500 7-Panel detects: Cannabis, Amphetamines, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Benzodiazepine, Opiates, and Methadone

(SecureTech) The DrugWipe 5 5-Panel detects: Cannabis, Opiates, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Methamphetamines and Ecstasy

The DrugWipe 6 6-Panel detects Cannabis, Opiates, Cocaine, Amphetamines/Methamphetamines/Ecstasy, Benzodiazepines.

5. Why do these devices select the drugs shown, and not, for example, Spice?

Five specific drug classes account for > 90% of positive drug assays according to roadside studies nationally, and in California alone:

  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Pain medications (particularly opioids)
  • Sedatives (particularly benzodiazepines)
  • Amphetamines

6. How many states currently allow for roadside OF testing via legislation?

Approximately fourteen states permit testing of oral fluids as an alternative to blood testing, with two more states currently pending. However, additional legislation is frequently required to enable roadside testing to utilize approved OF devices.

7. Do we have enough information to support the use of roadside oral fluid testing?

Yes, numerous studies and pilot projects have been done both in this country and others. For more information on these studies, go to

8.  Are any countries using roadside OF test results to obtain a conviction for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)?

Yes, Australia, Belgium, France, and Germany all use OF for DUID prosecutions.  The United Kingdom just published standards for OF devices as well.

9.  What is the best use for roadside OF testing?

Roadside testing can serve as a preliminary screening to aid police officers in DUID evaluation. It can also provide a deterrent to DUID drivers once they realize drug use can be so rapidly detected. This is currently happening in California.

 10. How accurate are these devices?

Accuracy and sensitivity of currently available devices vary, however three particular OF devices prove more than sufficient in their results, and therefore toxicologists and law enforcement alike are pursuing further evaluation and implantation. The technology used in these devices is similar, but not identical to, that which is used in toxicology laboratories. Yet, since the technology is not identical, the results are not identical either, and accuracy may vary depending upon the drug being tested. Also, these devices are designed to avoid false positive readings, yet sometimes at the expense of missing true positives. Yet, while they aren’t perfect, accuracy measurements are generally in the 90% range or higher for most drugs and in the 80% range for THC.

With that, although not a perfect equivalent for rigorous laboratory assays, these devices are sufficiently sensitive so that they may prove an effective deterrent to drugged driving, and they also do not present a high risk of providing false positive results. OF devices can also provide enough information to law enforcement officers to then prompt them to collect any further information needed to charge an offending driver with DUID.

11.  Can roadside OF results be used to support a charge of DUID in court?

Not at the present time. Oral fluid testing is qualitative, with quick results. It would also require a secondary confirmation or evidentiary test, such as Quantisal (a device that collects oral fluid for quantitative laboratory testing, but can take several weeks for results). Once these results are introduced into court, they would first need to survive a special “evidentiary hearing” required upon any new test being used in court.

12.  Does roadside OF testing have the potential of becoming the most prevalent matrix for DUID?

Yes, according to Dr. Alain Verstraete, President of TIAFT, “Oral fluid will probably become the most prevalent matrix for DUID, certainly for roadside screening. Legislators and police officers want to rapidly perform DUID testing at the roadside, eliminating transport to hospitals or police stations. The main advantages are ease of collection and a generally shorter window of drug detection than urine, hence a better correlation with duration of impairment.”

 13.  Is a driver required to leave their vehicle to undertake a roadside saliva test?

The roadside saliva screening test can be conducted through the driver’s window, in a similar way to alcohol testing. However, for safety and other reasons, police may require a driver to exit their vehicle to undergo a preliminary breath test or roadside saliva test. A driver who returns a positive result to the initial saliva test is then required to leave their vehicle and accompany the police officer to the Bus or other location in order to provide a secondary saliva or blood sample for further testing.

14. Do we need legislation to use the device as a preliminary drug test at roadside?

No, it may be used on a voluntary basis. More states might benefit from enabling legislation which licenses suitable devices.

15. If it can be done only on a voluntary basis, what is the value of roadside OF legislation?

 OF testing should instead be a requirement complete with refusal penalties as in other forms of testing. If a driver is asked if he/she would like to “volunteer” to take this test, yet he/she first understands the consequences of quick results, the driver will most likely decline. Understandably, it won’t take long for defense attorneys to educate their clients about the difference between waiting sometimes hours to take a test (which has its advantages when driving drugged) and the dangers of a quick result that can demonstrate more recent drug use.  Also:

  1. Some states require a roadside testing device to be approved, such as Colorado and Florida.
  2. Some statutes expressly call out blood testing if the breath test is inconclusive. This would need to be changed to allow oral fluids.
  3. Plus, in the near future, these tests may be allowed as evidence in court proceedings (see Question 11)

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