Road Safety News
 

'Drugalyser' kit to be trialled

Friday 6th August 2010

The government is planning trials of equipment which would test drivers under the influence of drugs (BBC News).

Manufacturers are to be given specifications for the devices by the end of September and the technology could be rolled-out across police forces within two years.

The move follows the publication of a review by Sir Peter North in June 2010, which concluded that the drug driving problem was 'out of all proportion' to the official figures. That is partly because of the difficulty in testing for drugs, which means many cases go unrecorded.

Mike Penning, road safety minister, said: "It is vital that the police have the tools they need to tackle those who drive while impaired by drugs.

"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."

The specifications are still being decided, but it is understood the Home Office wants the equipment to be capable of testing for the most common drugs, such as cannabis and cocaine.

It is not known yet if the test will use a sample of a suspect's saliva, as suggested by Sir Peter North, or whether there will be a drug-drive limit, similar to the drink-drive limit, based on the level of driving impairment. An alternative approach would be zero tolerance, where any amount of illegal drugs resulted in a prosecution regardless of whether driving was impaired.

The Home Office and Department for Transport are also to spend £300,000 on research into roadside testing equipment, with the eventual aim that all evidence for prosecutions could be gathered on site by traffic police.

Click here to read the full BBC News report.

 

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A very welcome step. In several of the constantly repeated TV documentaries that shadow traffic police officers, there have been a few instances where drivers have been stopped in cars where there is clear evidence of illegal drug use, either directly or passively while their passengers smoke. I have not viewed any roadside sobriety testing carried out to assess the capability of the driver. The commentary states that they are charged and found guilty of posssession and receive cautions or other low level sentences. The driving impairment appears to have been ignored. I suspect this is because there are insufficient numbers of police officers who can carry out the roadside sobriety tests and there is limited avalability of doctors to administer confirmation blood tests. If these filmed sequences are indicative of the problem, then the development of this equipment is long overdue. It may be that since filming, proceedures have been put in place and this situation rectified.

I would also suggest a zero tolerance approach as, unlike consumption of alcohol, drug misuse is illegal, and, I understand, some drugs have a longer term effect than alcohol and can remain in the body for several days after use.

However the effect of some prescription drugs would need to be taken into account and perhaps clearer labelling of prescriptions drugs that may impair the driver developed.
Andy Dickinson, Medway

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