Drug driving test device does not meet temperature requirement

Roadside kit used to test motorists will not function if temperature is below 4 degrees

Since April gardaí have been carrying out roadside drug tests on motorists. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Since April gardaí have been carrying out roadside drug tests on motorists. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The new Garda drug driving testing devices introduced in April do not work below 4 degrees Celsius, despite specifications for the State contract seeking a device to work down to 0 degrees.

The contract, which is worth an initial €1.8 million excluding VAT, was awarded to medical equipment firm Dräger UK.

Their device, the Dräger 5000, can only operate at 4 degrees Celsius or higher. The company’s bid for the contract stated “if the internal temperature of the device is outside of this range a test cannot be started.”

The UK firm’s bid for the contract, and the advertised requirements for the intoxicant testing devices was released to The Irish Times following a Freedom of Information act.

Overall the Dräger 5000 scored the highest under a combination of all criteria assessed.

Since April gardaí have been using the new roadside drug kits to test drivers’ saliva for intoxicants at mandatory checkpoints.

The tender outlines the anticipated volume of single-use testing mouthpieces needed each year will be 50,000.

If the temperature is under 4 degrees, a garda could choose to bring the motorist back to a Garda station to be tested indoors. Each station has a preliminary testing device.

Documentation supplied as part of the firm’s bid outlined several substances may contaminate saliva tested by the Dräger 5000 device. These include caffeine, nicotine, Vitamin C, ibuprofen, and other substances used in some pain, asthma, anti-depressant, or antibiotic medication.

The instruction manual for the device stated a ten-minute waiting period should be observed before testing a motorist’s salvia for the presence of intoxicants.

The tender process to select a testing device was undertaken by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MRBS).

Five companies bid for the contract, three of which were based outside of the EU. The Dräger devices are used by traffic police in Germany, Spain, and Azerbaijan.

The final cost of the contract with Dräger UK to supply the roadside drug driving tests will depend on the cost of purchasing additional equipment like mouthpieces over the course of the contract.

The MRBS is currently selecting a new roadside breath testing device for motorists who may be under the influence of alcohol.

The new breathalyser device will have the capacity to download results automatically, and gives the time and GPS location of where the test took place, reducing the chances of errors occurring in the data collected.

Gardaí hope the new breathalyser device will be rolled out from early 2018. The tender process for the new device was accelerated in the wake of the fake breath test controversy.

An internal Garda review of breathtesting has found that between July 2009 and the end of 2016 the number of breath tests recorded as being carried out was overstated by 1.5 million.

The internal report, which has not yet been published, identified three reasons for the fake breathalyser figures; gardaí simply making up the figures, administrative mistakes linked to the Garda Pulse computer or data input errors.