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Carol Stream Pilot Program Uses Saliva Testing Kit To Determine If Drivers Are High

CHICAGO (CBS) -- One police department in the state is testing drivers' saliva to determine whether they're driving high. Could the Carol Stream pilot program be the future in Illinois with legal pot on the horizon?

A swab of saliva can quickly screen for more than a handful of drugs, and while it may not be the answer to the roadside testing dilemma, some say it's a start.

"There's no electronics," said Sgt. Brian Cluever, director of traffic safety at the Carol Stream Police Department. "The kit itself is between $20 and $40."

Carol Stream police are the first in Illinois to test and train with the kits, currently on a voluntary basis through an IDOT grant.

"We place a swab underneath the individual's tongue, and for about five minutes it sits there and it soaks up the saliva created by that person," Cluever said. "After five minutes, we take that swab and put it back into the device. Wait another five minutes and we should have a result on whether there is that substance in the person's system."

Testing is not given roadside yet as it has to wait for state approval. An officer currently determines whether a driver is impaired at the scene, brings that driver back to the police station, administers a chemical test (blood or urine) and then the saliva test is offered on a voluntary basis. It does not affect that person's case and is just part of a study.

"We are unprepared for recreational cannabis to hit the streets, as it relates to traffic safety," Cluever said.

Law enforcement groups across Illinois have pushed back against marijuana legalization because of that lack of preparedness.

Right now, there's no official and approved testing like this available.

Unlike alcohol, there are no roadside tests available if police determine a driver has been high, let alone, high in that moment.

Many use blood or urine tests that, Cluever says, aren't always accurate when it comes to exactly what police are testing for.

Five nanograms of THC in the bloodstream is considered illegal in Illinois.

That's a level the device can't test to yet. But Cluever said something like this could be an option down the road.

"That's the goal ultimately. Whether it's this company or another, we want someone to provide us with something that can give us a tool that we can put in our bags that we can use," Cluever said. "That can be that other piece of evidence that we need to make sure we are removing these people from the roadway."

The legalization law that Gov. JB Pritzker has promised to sign will create a DUI task force to figure out solutions to roadside testing and possibly something like this, but because it's not law yet, the members would not comment or share information for this report.

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