Drug testing machines will be in police stations within months, ministers will announce today.
The Home Office is ready to approve devices which will be used to screen motorists suspected of driving under the influence of illegal narcotics.
In a new move manufacturers will be sent details of the Government's requirements for the machines today.
The use of so-called "drugalysers" in police stations will also pave the way for roadside testing by the end of next year.
It is understood that the first devices, capable of testing for an array of drugs including amphetamines, cannabis and ecstasy, could be in police stations by the summer.
Britain lags behind a number of countries in testing motorists for drug use, including Australia, Croatia and Spain where drivers are screened at the roadside.
The introduction of drug testing was one of the key recommendations by Sir Peter North in his Government-commissioned report into road safety which was published last year.
Currently a motorist suspected of driving under the influence of drugs undergoes a Field Impairment Test, which entails performing a variety of tasks such as standing on one leg.
A driver who fails is taken to the police station where officers have to wait for a doctor to approve a blood test, which produces results which can be used in court.
But ministers believe that this can lead to substantial delays, especially in rural areas, enabling drivers to escape conviction because the drugs have cleared their bloodstream.
The introduction of drug screening devices, which are likely to entail taking a saliva sample, will streamline the process.
Any driver who fails will be subject to an immediate blood test which can be carried out by a custody nurse, who will be present at most police stations.
This will make it far easier to secure a conviction, because the blood test will be taken closer to the time when the driver was behind the wheel.
“Drug drivers show a flagrant disregard for the law and put the lives of responsible motorists at risk," said Mike Penning, the road safety minister.
"This announcement means that we are a step closer to making sure that the Police have the equipment they need to tackle this selfish minority more effectively and make the roads safer for everyone.”
James Brokenshire, the crime prevention minister, added that the introduction of the devices would make it easier to identify reckless drives who put lives at risk.
Even with streamlined testing, the prosecution still has to prove that the presence of the drug impaired the motorist's driving.
This means the law on drug driving is currently in the same position as that governing alcohol before the introduction of the breathalyser in 1967.
However Sir Peter North has called for the creation of a new offence which would make it illegal to drive with the presence of an illegal drug in the bloodstream.
Last night the AA welcomed the Government announcement. "We are delighted by this," a spokesman said.
"It will make it far easier to arrest and convict somebody driving under the influence of drugs."
Commenting on proposals, Robert Gifford, Executive Director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, added: “Drug driving remains one of the great known unknowns. The more we can understand the scale and nature of the problem, the easier it will be to identify the most appropriate solution.”
By David Millward, The Telegraph Transport Editor
7:00AM GMT 14 Jan 2011
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