After three-and-a-half months of field testing, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office released the preliminary results of their drugged driving program Monday.

As the Wisconsin Department of Transportation reported in February the number of impaired driving cases have increased, the sheriff’s office decided to partner with the Madison Police Department and state agencies, like the Wisconsin State Hygiene Laboratory, to determine how many cases of drugged driving occur in Dane County.

The program received a $16,650 grant to purchase four Alere DDS2 Mobile Test Systems and 300 drug test kits. Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney said this grant is “one more step” in the fight against the rising heroin epidemic in Wisconsin. 

“We’re seeing an alarming number of drug-impaired drivers in Dane County, many of which are under the influence of heroin,” Mahoney said. “[The Dane County Sheriff’s Office] is working in every way possible to combat the effects it is having on the safety and well-being of our citizens.”

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The program, which officially piloted in March, allowed officers to orally swab drivers they suspect to be under the influence of drugs.

Dane County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Elise Schaffer said the final results of the testing will reveal what steps the sheriff’s office will take moving forward.

“I think when the final results comes in, we may look into purchasing more equipment like Alere,” Schaffer said.

Before, to get a definitive workup of one’s sobriety level, either a breathalyzer would be administered on the spot, or a blood test could be performed later on. With the Alere mobile test systems, the sheriff’s office is able to get preliminary tests on the road, Schaffer said.

What the sheriff’s office is seeing now with the pilot program, Shaffer said, is more arrests being made of people under the influence of more substances than just alcohol.

The preliminary results of the first 100 samples taken during the three-month field testing period showed:

  • 46.7 percent tested positive for marijuana
  • 19.7 percent tested positive for amphetamines
  • 6.6 percent tested positive for cocaine
  • 6.6 percent tested positive for benzodiazepines
  • 4.1 percent tested positive for opiates
  • 0.8 percent tested positive for meth

The report also revealed 18 percent of the tested individuals tested positive for more than one substance.

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Along with understanding the breadth of drugged driving in Dane County, the data collected during this pilot program will help assist in determining legal changes to include oral fluid analysis in impaired driving cases.

Since the oral swabs taken during the pilot program are not yet recognized in courts, they will not be used against those facing an impaired driving case.

The final results from the State Hygiene Lab are expected to come in the next few weeks, Schaffer said.