New legislation will allow police officers to test drivers for traces of drugs for the first time. Officers will no longer have to prove a driver was too impaired to drive – just that they had an illegal level of drugs in their system. The new drive – DrugWipe – allows police to test motorists for substances in less than 10 minutes using only a swab taken from inside a driver's cheek.
DrugWipe allows officers to screen drivers for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside. The change in the law will make it quicker and easier for drug-drivers to be prosecuted. British motorists who get behind the wheel with illegal drugs – or illegal quantities of legal medication – in their system could face a year in prison and a fine of up to £5,000. In addition, police will be able to test for other drugs including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin at a police station, even if a driver passes the roadside check. The system has been under test in Surrey and Sussex – setting legal limits for blood levels of legal and illegal drugs.
Inspector Stewart Goodwin, of Surrey and Sussex police, told Metro: "Drug-driving is a widespread but often hidden menace across the country.
D"You don't have to be on illegal drugs to be unfit to drive - many prescription or over-the-counter drugs can also impair your ability to drive. In the same way that we take a zero tolerance approach to drink-driving, we will also not tolerate drug-driving. Driving under the influence of drugs puts not just the offenders and their passengers at risk but everyone else on the roads as well. We have officers out every day looking for drug-drivers but we also need the public's help to catch them and get them off the roads. If you know or suspect someone has taken drugs and is driving, please contact us urgently - it could save lives."
Last month, an international study into cannabis found the drug was 114 times safer than drinking alcohol. The report found the Class B drug was "significantly" less harmful than alcohol. But the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that drivers are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the accident than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol. The risk associated with marijuana in combination with alcohol appears to be greater than that for either drug by itself, it reports.
By Aaron Brown/March 1, 2015
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