Validation of oral screening devices for drug-impaired driving

Author(s): D’Arcy Smith, Lloyd Robertson

Slidedeck Presentation Only (no paper submitted):

2A - Robertson



The enforcement of laws against alcohol-impaired driving has been greatly aided by devices defined in the Criminal Code of Canada: an approved screening device (ASD) to be used at roadside; and an approved instrument (Breathalyzer). Drug-impaired driving is subject to the same criminal penalties as driving impaired by alcohol, but until recently there were no devices available for testing comparable to those in use for alcohol.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has formed a partnership with the Canadian Society of Forensic Science (CSFS) and the RCMP to support an evaluation of commercially available roadside testing devices designed to detect the presence of drugs in drivers.


The project aims to evaluate the most promising oral fluid devices for their potential value, reliability and overall utility in roadside enforcement for specific types of drugs. The short-term goal (October 2015) is to develop a national standard or set of standards which might be adopted by Justice Canada, and incorporated in the Criminal Code. Once a standard is established, various roadside screening devices, including those that are involved in the present study, will have to show they meet the standard in order to be recognized. This process will help to identify devices which might be used in roadside enforcement in the fairly near future.

Three devices are being evaluated: the Alere DDS 2; the Dräger DrugTest 5000; and the Securetec DrugWipe 6S. Each device is being tested for six panels of drugs: cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, methamphetamines, and benzodiazepines. Approximately 600 samples are required from human subjects—200 for each device. Field work is being done primarily in two U.S. cities. In parallel with this field work, lab work is being done in Halifax to test the same three devices on controlled concentrations of the relevant drugs. A major part of the study is to test for sensitivity and specificity—absence of false positives and false negatives. After the Phase I field work and lab work are completed (March 2015), the devices will be tested by focus groups of police officers.
Final report including proposed standards is expected to be completed by November 2015.


Previous research has shown that the technology available in roadside screening devices has greatly improved in recent years. Previous studies include:
• ROSITA 2001 (ROadsIde Testing Assessment, EU), which tested 19 devices, 16 designed for urine samples (which are logistically more difficult than oral fluid samples). Saliva tests required further study for roadside use.
• ROSITA-2, 2006 (Europe and U.S.): 9 oral fluid devices, none reliable enough for roadside use.
• DRUID, 2009 (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, Alcohol and Medicines, Europe): 8 oral fluid devices, of which 3 showed the most promise
The CCMTA national Drugs and Driving Framework (DDF) calls for amending the Criminal Code of Canada to permit the use of roadside screening devices for drugs, provided research validates their accuracy. At their AGM in August 2014, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police urged the Government of Canada to improve the safety of Canada’s roadways by approving a drug screening tool to enhance investigation and prosecution of drug impaired driving.
As with alcohol testing devices authorized in the CCC, independent and validation by an arm’s length national body is required for the courts to accept the results of such devices.


This research will be a big step forward in the process of preparing for the use of oral drug screening devices at roadside.