Results published today (27 Jan) show a much heavier emphasis on detecting drug drivers during the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) 2015 festive enforcement campaign.
During the campaign, which ran from 1-31 December, 1,888 drug screening devices were administered by police officers, with nearly 50% of those tested found to be under the influence of drugs. NPCC says more people tested positive for drug driving in December 2015 than in the whole of 2014.
The results are attributed to new legislation and drug detection devices which have made it easier for police to identify and prosecute drug drivers.
With regard to drink driving, there were considerably fewer breath tests administered in the 2015 campaign than the previous three years, but the percentage testing positive increased.
NPCC says this is due to police forces using an “intelligence-led approach” which targeted “drink drive hotspots”.
During the 2015 campaign some 110,226 tests were administered, with 5.02% of those testing positive.
The comparable figures for the three previous years are:
- 2014: 133,996 tests and 4.39% positive
- 2013: 191,040 tests and 3.42% positive
- 2012: 175,831 tests and 4.05% positive
The percentage testing positive in England is considerably higher than in Scotland where 3% of tests were positive.
Commenting on the results, chief constable Suzette Davenport, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing, said: “These results show that new legislation and detection devices have helped us to keep the roads safe.
“Officers across the country using their local knowledge and intelligence to focus on high risk locations are better equipped than ever to catch drivers who are under the influence of drink or drugs, even at very small amounts.”
NPCC says there are “encouraging indications that anti-drink drive messages are reaching the under 25s” and suggests that “the majority of young drivers are avoiding alcohol when taking to the roads”.
In 2015 the percentage of positive tests among this group was 5.37%, compared with 6.33% in 2014. However, the 2015 figure is still higher than in 2013 (4.41%) and 2012 (5.27%).
Road Safety GB
Iain Temperton, Road Safety GB director of communications, said: “It’s good to see that the new measures introduced last year are making it easier for the police to catch drug drivers. Hopefully the fact that more drivers are being arrested for this offence will make others think twice before getting behind the wheel having taken illegal drugs."
David Bizley, RAC chief engineer, said: "It’s good to see the new drug-driving law is being enforced, but it is worrying that the campaign caught so many motorists breaking the law with 50% of those tested proving to be over the limit. Clearly, this kind of testing needs to be carried out constantly to help reduce the number of motorists who are prepared to drive having taken illegal or prescription drugs that impair safe conduct at the wheel.
“If a police officer suspects that a motorist is driving under the influence of both drink and drugs, they will normally test for alcohol only because this is far cheaper and simpler than testing for illegal drugs and the penalties are similar for both offences. The figures published by the police for positive drug tests are therefore likely to understate the number of motorists caught when driving under the influence of drugs.”
Alice Bailey, campaigns officer for Brake, said: “These drug drivers figures show just how much this law change was needed to help keep our roads safer and send a clear message to anyone driving after taking drugs that they will be caught. It’s very worrying that there has been an increase in the number of drivers aged 25 and over caught drink driving for a second year running, meaning too many still don’t understand that any amount of alcohol can impair a driver’s ability and judgement. There is some slightly more encouraging news that fewer under 25’s have been caught drink driving.”