Police Begin Driver Drug Testing
Motorists will be compelled to take part in the roadside tests
Police have been given powers to conduct roadside tests of motorists they suspect of driving under the influence of drugs.
The powers come under a new Code of Practice, which details the way trained police officers must conduct the tests to help judge whether someone is unfit to drive.
Until now, participation in roadside impairment tests has been on a voluntary basis, but now drivers will be compelled to take part if the police suspect they are under the influence of drugs.
Refusal to participate is an offence in the same way as failure to provide a breath test.
Road safety minister David Jamieson said: "Drug-driving puts lives at danger and is as irresponsible as drink-driving. Drivers should never get behind the wheel when they're unfit to drive.
"Law-abiding motorists are fed up with anti-social drivers, who put not only their own lives at risk, but also those of other innocent road users."
He added: "The Code of Practice will help to further drive down the number of casualties on our roads. Testing will mean that a trained officer will have more information on which to judge whether a driver may be impaired and more evidence when deciding whether to make an arrest."
The Code of Practice details the tests to be undertaken, how they should be administered, the kind of observations that may be made, and the inferences that may be drawn.
The RAC Foundation said that Durham Police took blood screenings from all of the 23 people killed in road accidents two years ago. The samples revealed that 50 per cent had traces of either cannabis, cocaine, Ecstasy or another prescription drug.
Previous research from the Department for Transport in 1989 showed that only three per cent of a random sample of road traffic accident fatalities were known to have been driving with drugs in their systems. The latest figure from a three-year department study is 18 per cent - a sixfold increase.