[h2]A simple testing device to catch motorists driving under the influence of drugs is to be installed at every police station within two years, the Government will announce on Friday. [/h2]
It hopes the so-called “drugalyser” will make it easier to catch and prosecute offenders and help reduce accidents. The drug testers will be able to screen for an array of illegal substances, including cocaine and ecstasy.
A positive result would mean that police would no longer have to wait for permission from a doctor before a blood test could be taken to be used as evidence in court.
The first devices are due to be in place within months as the Coalition tries to tackle the growing problem of drug-driving, Mike Penning, the road safety minister, will say. Although the devices will be used in police stations at first, the intention is for the tests to be carried out at the roadside.
There has been growing concern within Whitehall over the risk posed by motorists using controlled substances. As long ago as 2001, a study by the Transport Research Laboratory showed that drugs were a factor in nearly one in four of fatal accidents. There were 2,222 people killed on Britain’s roads last year.
Last year, in a government-sponsored study, 10 per cent of drivers aged 18-29 admitted getting behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs.
However, Britain has lagged behind a number of other countries in dealing with the problem and ministers believe urgent action is needed to plug a series of loopholes.
As well as introducing the “drugalyser”, ministers are considering ways to tighten laws. Currently, driving after taking drugs is only deemed an offence if it can be proved that the substance’s presence in a motorist’s bloodstream has impaired their driving. Ministers are considering altering the law so it is illegal to drive with drugs in a person’s system.
Police who suspect someone of drug-driving currently rely on the Field Impairment Test, a series of co-ordination exercises such as standing on one leg. Drivers who fail are taken to the police station to await a blood test.
However, the delay in finding a doctor means that a number of drivers are escaping prosecution because the illegal substance has by then passed through their system.
In anticipation of the introduction of the “drugalysers”, the law already says that a blood test can be taken after the driver has been screened by an authorised device.
So far, no device that meets the Home Office and Department for Transport’s requirements has been identified. Detailed specifications and a £300,000 research fund to develop such a device will be announced by the Government today. Ministers believe this will enable it to be introduced at some police stations by early next year.
The technology would allow police officers to use a swab to take a sweat or saliva sample which, if positive, would lead to an immediate blood test.
“It is vital that the police have the tools they need to tackle those who drive while impaired by drugs,” Mr Penning told The Daily Telegraph last night. “This selfish minority show a flagrant disregard, not only for their own lives, but for the safety of others and we are determined to tackle this menace.
“That is why we are taking urgent steps to make drug screening technology available as soon as possible. This equipment will make it easier for the police to prosecute the irresponsible minority.”
There were 1,644 convictions for drug-driving charges compared with 71,449 for drink-driving in 2008 in England and Wales.
Edmund King, the president of the AA, said of the move to introduce the “drugalyser”: “Any streamlining of procedure which makes it easier for the police to target and prosecute drug drivers is a welcome development.”
By David Millward
05 Aug 2010
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.