Drug driving arrests trebled in Northamptonshire since introduction of new roadside test

The number of drug driving arrests in Northamptonshire has trebled in the past year since the introduction of a new roadside test, latest figures have shown.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 3:09 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 3:39 pm
Image courtesy of THINK!

Since last March, Police officers across the country have had the power to carry out roadside saliva swabs, which can detect the presence of cannabis and cocaine.

The results of a DrugWipe test take eight minutes to process and positive results are indicated by lines appearing on the device.

Within the last year (March 2015-March 2016), in Northamptonshire, there have been 62 arrests. In the same period the previous year there were 17 arrests.

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Officers can test for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside, and screen for other drugs at the police station.

Prior to the introduction of the new law in March 2015, drug driving arrests would be made on the basis that it is illegal to drive with drugs in your system that impair your driving.

Police officers needed to look for evidence of poor driving before making an arrest and the person arrested would have to be medically examined and a blood test taken.

PC David Lee, a Safer Roads Officer within the joint Safer Roads Team (Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service), said: “Since the new law came in, we have the power to request a roadside DrugWipe test on any driver who has been involved in a road traffic collision - regardless of blame.

“We also have the power to request a DrugWipe test on any driver who has committed any road traffic offence or where the officer suspects they may be under the influence of a drug. An example of this would be when a car is stopped and it smells of cannabis.”

“People are familiar with warnings about alcohol and the effects that can have on driving, but are perhaps less acquainted with the negative impacts of drugs when behind the wheel of a car. Being able to enforce drug driving laws more easily must inevitably have an impact on helping to cut the number of road traffic collisions linked to drug-related impairment.”

On a national level it is estimated that as many as 200 people a year are killed by drivers impaired by drugs.

Penalties for drug driving include a minimum one year driving ban, an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.

The penalty for causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is a prison sentence of up to 14 years.