Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in partnership with the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office and the Governor’s Impaired Driving Prevention Advisory Council is looking to develop new tools to help detect drug-impaired drivers.
In coordination with ENDUI campaign, Oklahoma state troopers collected samples from suspected impaired drivers as part of a study to evaluate the testing of oral fluid as a means of detecting drugged drivers.
“Driving while under the influence of drugs is a growing danger, particularly as prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed in Oklahoma,” said Jarrad R. Wagner, Ph.D., OSU-CHS associate professor of forensic sciences and coordinator of the project. “Developing new testing methods will provide officers with an additional tool in combatting this growing danger.”
ENDUI vans were equipped with two mobile test systems and test kits were provided to officers for screening purposes. OHSA will collect the results of the rapid on-site oral fluid screenings and provide the data to the OSU-CHS Forensic Toxicology and Trace Laboratory for analysis of the test kits’ effectiveness.
“Oral fluid provides greater advantages than using blood or urine specimens,” said Wagner. “The noninvasive aspect of collecting the specimen eliminates the possibility of sample adulteration,”
Wagner will use data provided by OHSA to work on developing a screening tool to enable law enforcement to better detect drug-impaired drivers.
“Any additional tools we can provide law enforcement to detect drug use in impaired drivers will ultimately result in a reduction of deaths and injuries related to drugged driving,” said Toby Taylor, assistant director of the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.
The results from the oral fluid screenings will be compared with results from standardized field sobriety tests, drug recognition expert (DRE) examinations and other state tests.
According to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 10 million teens and adults reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs in the year prior to the survey. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study reported that 18 percent of drivers killed in a vehicle accident tested positive for at least one drug.
“Ultimately, we are hopeful that this project will help reduce drugged driving in Oklahoma and the nation, and reduce the number of fatal automobile accidents,” Wagner said.
Wagner is a Fellow of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He is a member of the Soft of Forensic Toxicologists/AAFS Drugs and Driving committee and a member of the Oral Fluid subcommittee that recently released guidelines for conducting evaluations of roadside testing devices. He was recently appointed to the Oklahoma Board of Tests for Alcohol and Drug Influence.