Police carry out roadside tests after launch of new drug-driving test kit

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Officers carried out 88 roadside drug-driving tests in the first full year since the new devices were introduced in the Nottinghamshire Police area.

The hand-held kit includes a mouth swab and can detect whether a driver has been under the influence of cocaine or cannabis while driving.

A positive reading gives the officer the power to arrest the driver on suspicion of driving with excess specified drugs in the blood and take them into a custody suite for blood testing to confirm they have the drugs in their system over the prescribed limit.

Chief Inspector Mark Garthwaite, of East Midlands Operational Support Service (EMOpSS), said the devices make it easier for officers to detect drug-driving, in a similar way that breathalysers do for drink-driving.

“It is now generally accepted by society that drink-driving is unacceptable. And it should be no different for drug-driving,” said C/Insp Garthwaite.

“Taking drugs impairs people’s ability to drive and is incredibly dangerous for the driver, their passengers and any other road users who have the misfortune to encounter them on the roads.

“The kits are an important tool for officers in tackling drug-driving because they give an early indication at the roadside, meaning the driver can be required to take a blood test more quickly to confirm they have broken the law.

“They should act as a deterrent to anyone thinking of getting behind the wheel while under the influence because it is now easier to catch them in the act.”

The devices were first used in the Force area in December 2015, although there were only two uses in that first month. Their use has gradually built up over time as more officers were trained in how to carry them out and they are now more commonly used whenever officers suspect a driver is under the influence of drugs.

Of the 88 tests carried out between 1 January and 31 December 2016, 31 tested positive for cannabis, six for cocaine, and five for both drugs. One person refused to take the test and was arrested for failing to co-operate with a preliminary drugs test.

From January to date this year, a further 20 tests have been carried out, with one testing positive for cocaine, 10 for cannabis and four for both.

Before the testing kits were available, officers needed a doctor or a health care professional to examine the driver to say whether they believed they had a condition which might be due to a drug - and only then could the driver be required to take a blood test. This is still the procedure in cases where the drug taken is something other than cannabis or cocaine.

It is not only illicit drugs that can make drivers fall foul of the law. Some prescription drugs can make people unfit to drive.

(Picture courtesy of DTec, the suppliers of the testing kits).