SDPD to start using tool to detect stoned drivers

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SAN DIEGO – Officers who work to get drug-impaired drivers off the streets of San Diego have a new tool at their disposal, police Chief Shelley Zimmerman announced Thursday.

The San Diego Police Department is deploying two “Drager 5000” testing devices, which screen saliva samples for seven non-alcoholic intoxicating substances, including cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines and prescription narcotics, Zimmerman said.

“It’s all about safety,” she told reporters at a midday briefing at Dana Point on Mission Bay.

The new sobriety-testing machines will make their debut Friday night, during an annual St. Patrick’s Day checkpoint at a yet-to-be-disclosed location in the city, according to SDPD traffic-unit Officer Mark McCullough.

The new apparatuses will go into regular use at such roadway motorist- screening operations, as well as during roving DUI “saturation patrols,” McCullough said.

As with portable alcohol detectors used by police, motorists will have the choice of whether to submit to testing by one of the Drager 5000s.

Those who do so will undergo an oral swab, and those who refuse could be subject to a blood test anyway if arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, McCullough said.

The devices — which cost about $5,500 each — were funded through a private endowment managed by the San Diego Police Officers Foundation.

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