One year on from new laws and roadside drug tests
It is one year on since police in Suffolk and Norfolk Constabularies began using roadside kits to test drivers thought to be under the influence of drugs.
The kits were as a result of new laws introduced on 2 March 2015 making it easier for police to target drug drivers. The new drug testing devices allow officers to carry out roadside tests on drivers suspected of being under the influence of cannabis or cocaine and work by testing a saliva swab.
New legislation introduced on Monday 2 March 2015 made it illegal to drive with certain drugs above a certain level in the blood, even if you’re not unfit to drive.
In Suffolk and Norfolk during December 2015 - 91 drug tests were conducted with 28 positive tests, and in January 2016 - 67 drug tests were conducted with nine positive tests.
Chief Inspector Kristin Barnard, the new head of the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing Unit, said: "Although we are only seeing a minority of drivers in the counties driving under the influence of drugs, it is still putting other road users at risk of a serious collision or even fatality. Any amount of drug, whether it is prescribed or illegal can impair your ability to drive and decrease your reaction times.
"The new laws have made it easier for officers to tackle drug drivers, because there is a prescribed legal limit for substances. Along with the roadside drug tests, it allows both Suffolk and Norfolk Police to deal with offenders more effectively.
"It is therefore essential that drivers read the instructions of any prescription medication before getting behind the wheel.”
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore said: "I fully support the Constabulary’s stance on drug driving and I’m pleased to see that the new roadside kits are enabling our officers to carry out roadside tests on drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs.
"It’s important for drivers to know we are on the case in Suffolk. The message is clear, as it is with alcohol – don’t drive under the influence of drugs.”
Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Stephen Bett said: "Anything that makes our roads safer has to be a good thing and the new laws have made it easier for officers to tackle drivers under the influence of drugs and deal with offenders in the most effective way.”
Some prescribed drugs are also included as certain medicines affect your ability to drive. Eight medicines which are sometimes abused are also included in the new legislation with limits set high to reflect their use as medicines. The medicines are Morphine, Diazepam, Clonazepam, Flunitrazepam, Lorazepam, Oxazepam, Tempazepam and Methadone.
Previously, the offence of driving whilst unfit through drugs would be used to prosecute drivers and the new laws are in addition to this existing offence. Limits are set at very low levels for eight illegal drugs such as cannabis and cocaine.
The new legislation provides a medical defence if you are taking medicine in accordance with the advice of a healthcare professional – provided you are not impaired.
A drug drive conviction will result in a criminal record, a minimum 12 month driving ban and a fine of up to £5,000. It could also cost you your job.
Antonia Litten, Eastern Regional Manager for Crimestoppers, said: "Many people may be reluctant to go to the police, even though they know someone is a regular drug driver, but they should feel they can speak up and give vital information to someone. It could save someone’s life.
"They can do this completely anonymously through the Crimestoppers website www.crimestoppers-uk.org or by calling 0800 555 111.
We never ask for your name and no personal details are taken, calls are not recorded. Calls and information given online cannot be traced and you will not have to go to court or give a statement to the police”.