Tox Tuesday: Australia’s search for a drug testing unicorn

As road safety becomes an even higher priority all around the world, governments seek to develop the most advanced tools to protect the public from intoxicated drivers on their roads.

A case in point is Australia and its roadside drug testing program.

Last October, Australia’s National Drug Driving Working Group released a report stating that the government is seeking a second generational solution for its roadside drug testing program.

The initiative comes from the government’s need to switch to a technology that is more reliable, faster and more economic.

This doesn’t mean that the current program is not successful. In fact, it is so successful that for over the past 15 years, Australia has been the global pioneer in drug driving enforcement and deterrence.

What’s more, Australia is soon to reach 500,000 roadside drug screenings per year as its program’s operational model is based on high volume, widespread testing during random traffic stops.

So why the need for a change?

During a roadside drug screening, Australian law enforcement performs one lateral flow prescreening test, and each test can take about 10 minutes.

Assuming 500,000 samples, at 10 minutes each, is approximately 80,000 hours spent annually. If the test comes back positive, additional time will be required for confirmation testing.

This process is very expensive, and no conviction can be pursued for the perpetrator until final confirmation because prescreening tests are not considered valid as evidence of driving under the influence of drugs (DUID).

And while this has been the main reason for the whole search of a new generation of roadside drug testing, Australia has a very clear strategy for what the future of its roadside drug testing program should look like.

To be more specific, the government wants a more economic oral fluid test that can be completed in under one minute, while providing results that can be used as reliable evidence of DUID.

Such technology would be the perfect approach to their issue, but a solution like this is simply a unicorn situation as that technology doesn’t exist right now.

For now, the Australian government is willing to work more proactively with manufacturers and product developers to get the right solution and maintain its leadership in the road safety area.

 

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