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Drug-driving test kits get green light

By Lunar Loops, Sep 10, 2007 | |
  1. Lunar Loops
    This from Scotland on Sunday:

    Drug-driving test kits get green light

    EDDIE BARNES
    POLITICAL EDITOR

    ROADSIDE tests for drug-driving are to be given the go-ahead in a bid to crack down on reckless motorists who go on the roads having taken illegal substances.
    Ministers will confirm later this month that new roadside kits capable of spotting traces of drugs will be used across the country. It follows shocking figures which found that almost 20% of drivers involved in fatal accidents had traces of drugs in their system.
    Police in Australia are already using the kits - known as 'drugalysers' - which test a motorist's saliva. Police here would be able to charge guilty motorists under drink-driving laws, if the test was brought in.
    The Home Office will publish guidance in the next two weeks setting out strict standards for the kits. Scottish ministers have now made it clear that, once they are available, they hope to roll them out across Scotland.
    The move follows a campaign by the Conservative Party north and south of the Border to make drug-driving as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.
    Surveys have shown that as many as one in five youngsters take to the wheel having taken drugs. However, punishing somebody for the offence has so far proven near impossible because of the lack of reliable tests. Police have been forced to rely on 'common-sense tests' such as asking motorists to walk in a straight line.
    Consequently, it emerged last year that 1,705 drivers had escaped prosecution for drink or drug-driving over the past four years because of insufficient and unreliable evidence. It is hoped the new kits will be able to prove quickly and conclusively whether drugs have been taken.
    Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill confirmed his wish to press ahead with the kits in a letter sent last week to Scots Tory MSP Bill Aitken.
    In the letter he wrote: "We have now been advised by the Home Office that they hope to publish a guide which will set down a tight and exacting specification for the types of devices that would meet... approval. I have asked my officials to make clear to the Home Office our wish for the approval process to be completed as swiftly as possible."
    Officials in Scotland have contacted the Home Office to urge them to roll out their guidance as soon as possible, to enable the kits to be used.
    Aitken said: "We know that 7% of young people admit driving under the influence of illegal drugs and that one in three has been a passenger in a car driven by a driver on drink or drugs. At long last we are making progress. In January, Vernon Coaker MP said guidance was to be unveiled shortly, and nine months later it finally looks like arriving. I would urge both our Governments to ensure the implementation of this scheme is a priority."
    Chief Constable John Vine of Tayside Police, who has complained previously that a lack of reliable testing equipment has hampered his force's work, said: "More accurate testing technology or processes for motorists stopped for drink or drug-driving will enable us to reduce deaths and injury on our roads and make Scotland safer."
    A spokesman for the RAC foundation said: "This is good news because the problem at the moment is that if the police suspect someone of drug-driving the procedures are too cumbersome. This will hopefully act as a deterrent."

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