Almost 100 drug drivers snared in new police roadside campaign in region
- Credit: Archant
A police campaign using new powers to target drug drivers has caught almost 100 motorists who were under the influence of illegal drugs in the region in the last year.
The clampdown on drivers who get behind the wheel after taking cannabis, cocaine and other substances started when new powers and roadside testing kit were made available to roadside officers in March last year.
Police in Suffolk and Norfolk used 91 drug screening devices in December which resulted in 28 positive tests. In January, some 67 drug tests were carried out with nine positive tests.
Essex Police said 57 people have tested positive for drug driving since March last year. The youngest was aged 16 and the oldest was 53. Of the 57 positive tests, 36 were for cannabis, 16 for cocaine and five were for the presence of both drugs.
New legislation, which covers 17 legal and illegal drugs, and the roll-out of drug detection devices has made it easier to identify and prosecute drug drivers, police chiefs said.
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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.
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“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.”
The penalties for drug driving are the same as for drink driving. If convicted, the driver will receive a minimum 12-month driving ban, criminal record, a fine or up to six months in prison, or both.
Sergeant David Rudd, of Essex Police’s casualty reduction section, described the new drug testing kits as a “fantastic tool” in roads policing.
He said: “Just like drink driving, drug driving puts not only the life of the driver at risk but the lives of other innocent road users too.
“Drug driving is totally unacceptable and out our message is clear – if you take drugs and drive it is only a matter of time before you are caught and put before the courts.
“Drug driving risks and ruins lives and is taken very seriously by Essex Police. We will continue our efforts to keep the roads safe.
“However the community has a significant part to play in this. Our efforts can only be strengthened by the flow of information from members of the public so I would ask anyone with information about people who take drugs and get behind the wheel to report it.”
The new regulations set low levels for eight illegal drugs and much higher ones for prescription drugs. Drivers using prescription drugs within recommended doses will not be penalised.